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Wisconsin sees 21 percent drop in bee colonies

Kaitlyn Riley

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Honey bee colonies for operations with five or more colonies totaled 16,500 in Wisconsin as of January 1.

Honey bee numbers reported a 1 percent increase across the nation, but Wisconsin was stung with a turn in the opposite direction. Wisconsin honey bee colonies dropped 21 percent compared to this time last year, according to the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service.

Honey bee colonies for operations with five or more colonies totaled 16,500 in Wisconsin as of January 1.

Experts say Varroa mites are mostly to blame. Kaitlyn Lance, agriculture educator with Extension La Crosse County, said there is a need for more research in controlling mites.

“I think with any disease or mite issue when it comes to any agricultural practice is having diverse plans whether it is doing mite control or looking at the type of bee structure you have,” Lance said. “It definitely does impact our La Crosse area beekeepers.”

Lance added it affects more than honey producers.

“They [honey bees] have a huge impact, especially if you have a very diverse yard of flowers,” Lance said. “I know a lot of Wisconsin residents love their fruit trees, so we definitely have a lot around here. Having pollinators such as honey bees is important.”

Lance said fortunately, honey bees are just one of many types of bees or insects that help with pollination. Other species of bees, birds and even beetles can help, and there are ways to draw them to yards.

One way to attract pollinators is to have solar lights,” according to Lance Additionally, leaving behind dead vegetation in the fall can provide places for them to hibernate over winter.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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