For humans, honeybees are a crucial and unappreciated ally in our food supply chain: It’s estimated that as much as one-third of the food we eat depends on the pollination work that is done by insects.
The 2018 Virginia Honeybee Festival will take place Saturday at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and it’s a chance for everyone, including children, to learn more about honeybees and their impact on the world we share.
“This is our eighth annual Virginia Honey Bee Festival and we have a great partnership with the Beekeepers Guild of Southeast Virginia,” said Kelly Welsh, marketing and communications director for the Botanical Gardens. “The Festival is a fun-filled day to learn about honeybees, the role they play in the environment, and how we humans can help protect them.”
Pollinators like the honeybee are critical to our day-to-day life. And one thing that is absolutely certain is that honeybees, who unwittingly help humans so much, now need human help.
They pollinate more than 60 percent of the food we eat, said Nick Delphia, president of the Beekeepers Guild of Southeast Virginia.
“Our local beekeepers have suffered huge losses and are trying to replenish our losses,” he said. “We hold the honeybee festival to educate the public about our fascinating hobby. We will have honey and hive products as well as an observation hive and honey extracting.”
Already facing declining populations, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced recently that the winter losses of honeybee colonies over the 2017-2018 season were greater than expected, and greater than the average of 30 percent per year for the past decade.
“The winter losses were 59.5 percent,” said Keith Tignor, state apiarist. That’s the highest rate since 2000, he added, when the state began monitoring winter losses.
Those who attend the Honeybee Festival will have the opportunity to see an actual living honeybee hive; there will be demonstrations and activities for children; honey for sampling; and food and merchandise vendors.
VDACS staff reported finding high levels of Varroa mites and nosema infections in wintering bees. Both maladies shorten the lifespan of worker bees, increasing mortality rates in winter months. Nationally, 30.7 percent of managed colonies were lost during the winter of 2017-2018.
This represents a 9.5 percent increase over the previous year.