Local beekeeper stung by honey bee shortage, and you could be next

There’s help on the way for the depleted honey bee population, in the form of $11 million in federal incentives.

Related:  Obama announces plan to save honey bees

Right now, the shortage is stinging local growers.

Meet the “Bee Man of Monmouth.”

“Not many bees in here,” said Bob Frey, 82. He began raising bees nearly four decades ago.

“I’ve probably got 500 empty boxes,” he said on Monday.

After harsh weather killed off three-fourths of his bees, this will be the worst year for producing honey.

“I went from normally producing about 3,000 pounds a year,” he said. “Last year, I produced 400.”

Honey bees are critical to American agriculture. More than $15 billion in production depends on them. That’s nearly all the fruit and vegetables we eat.

The honey bee population has been declining for decades. It’s now less than half of what it was during the 1940’s.

Pesticides, mites, genetics and weather are to blame. That’s why the White House is boosting incentives for beekeepers and stepping up research.

“If you don’t do it ahead of time, it’s going to be too late,” Frey said.

Information is available at local FSA offices. Frey also hosts monthly meetings at the Warren County Farm Bureau. Those take place at 7 p.m., on the third Tuesday of the month.

This will be a rebuilding year for Frey. He might not have any honey to sell this season.

“What did I do wrong?” he asked. “What could I have done to help a little bit?”

A buzz over bees that’s poised to sting all of us.

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