New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in northern New York today to illustrate how a new USDA plan could hurt honey bee colonies.
Fourth generation beekeeper Richard Crawford, the President of the Champlain Valley Beekeeper’s Association, has 86 hives with about 5 million bees producing about two tons of honey annually. Crawford donned a protective mask as his brother Doug described what he was doing. “What he’s doing is lighting the smoker. It blocks the scent. He pulls it up real slow. No fast moves. No agitation.”
Dick Crawford: “And the queen is right there.”
Doug Crawford: “And she looks different. She’s longer. And she’s running around frantic because it’s been disturbed. But you can see how calm they are. They’re stinging. They’re worried about their hive. They’re worried about the honey that’s there. They’re worried all of that not him.”
Continuing an effort that brought him to Schenectady in July, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer visited Crawford’s bee colonies in Morrisonville to express concern about a U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to stop collecting data on honey bees. He says the insects are crucial for pollinating crops but the hives are dying off. “In New York State $1.2 billion worth of crops depend on our bees. And we also of course have an industry of honey. The active number of honey bee colonies in the United States plummeted from six million to two-point-five million in 2017. No one quite knows why so many bee colonies are dying off. We do know without them our agriculture industry will come to a standstill. In 2018 New York state lost 14,700 bee colonies. So we have a real problem.”
NY Farm Bureau Field Advisor Kim Trombly says honey bees provide 50 percent of the pollination across New York yet their population continues to decline. “These losses not only impact our honey producers but also our farms that rely on pollination from honey bees. The continuation of the Honey Bee Colony Survey reinforces the importance of agriculture to the overall economy. It’s imperative the honey bee colonies are accurately monitored to ensure the sustainability and longevity of New York agriculture and the overall food system.”
Schumer says it’s unknown why the USDA decided to cut the 10 to 12 million dollars in funding for data collection, which the Democrat calls crucial. “The survey will tell us two things: where the bees are dying out but more importantly it’s going to give us the information as to why, the great mystery, as to why the bee colonies are dying. And we need the scientific data. That tells us everything.”
The Honey Bee Colonies report has been conducted annually by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, tracking active, new and lost colonies.