Local beekeeper transforms base hazard into honey
By Airman Shane M. Phipps, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 30, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Editor's note: This is part two of a five-part series on Mountain Home Air Force Base's local wildlife.
Apis mellifera, commonly known as the honey bee, has occupied the MHAFB community for generations. Due to Colony Collapse Disorder, the unexplained disappearance of honey bees all over the globe, the preservation of honey bee colonies is especially imperative.
According to an online Congressional Research Service Report at www.fas.org, colony losses are not uncommon. However, losses in recent years differ from past situations due to the fact that colony losses are occurring primarily because bees are failing to return to the hive, which is largely uncharacteristic of typical bee behavior. Losses have been rapid, they are occurring in large numbers, and the reason for these losses remains unknown.
"In the last six years, half of the worlds honey bees have disappeared," said Master Sgt. (Ret.) Don Wood, amateur Mountain Home beekeeper.
In spite of Colony Collapse Disorder, honey bee swarms are common in the summer months here on base.
The Gunfighter pest control team is currently implementing a unique and innovative solution to a recurring honey bee swarming problem.
"We don't like to harm the honey bees due to their dwindling numbers, and the importance of their pollination," said David Ash, supervisor of the 366th Civil Engineering Squadron pest management office.
In 2008, Mr. Ash and his crew contacted Mr. Wood, with the hopes of safely eliminating the swarms of honey bees plaguing the base.
"Every year, half of all the hives will leave and form another colony," said Mr. Ash. "In this transition the bees will swarm on anything from buildings to planes. Even though the swarms are docile due to not having a hive to protect, we still get calls from people expecting us to evict the bees."
Mr. Ash and his team continue to work with Mr. Wood to effectively harvest the bees. Following in his father's footsteps Don Wood began beekeeping as a hobby, harvesting honey for friends and family.
"The honey bees are extremely important to the human population," said Wood. "Their pollination contributes to the production of almost all human food sources."
Another excerpt from the online Congressional Research Service Report says, honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinators of agricultural crops worldwide. Honey bee professionals and the U.S. Department of Agriculture often insist that bee pollination is involved in nearly one-third of the U.S. diet and contribute to the production of multiple fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and crops. The estimated value of honey bees as commercial pollinators is about $15-$20 billion annually.
The pest control team shares a common respect for the longevity of the honey bees and has capitalized on the opportunity to literally turn a potential swarming problem into a solution as sweet as honey.