Drought, pandemic sting local beekeepers

Local News

LITTLEFIELD, Texas — Some landowners in Littlefield are saying the area is having the worst drought in over a decade, shortening crop seasons and reducing the amount of food for bees.

“[It’s] probably as bad as it’s been in 15 years,” said Jay Smith, a hobbyist beekeeper out of Littlefield.

In addition to being a beekeeper, Smith has a background in biology and agronomic sciences. He told KAMC News his honey crop is just half the size of last year’s, and the drought, combined with the pandemic, have made beekeeping more difficult.

“We’ve had to maintain bees on a bare minimum up until the last couple of weeks since cotton started blooming in the area,” Smith said.

Due to state cottages laws that regulate certain foods made at home, beekeepers must deliver honey to customers face-to-face — not exactly an easy task to do while social distancing.

Since the pandemic started, Smith said it’s been harder for him to get the queen bees he needs to grow his hives, and the ones he ordered online have shown up late with dead or barely-breathing bees.

However, Smith says that the biggest threat to bees right now is a disease-causing pest called the Varroa mite, or Varroa destructor, and in a way, how bees have handled this mite resembles social distancing.

“The sick and dying bees are usually discarded by the colony,” Smith said.

Beekeepers have been breeding their bees to be more aggressive on infestations. Smith said that he’s confident his bees will manage the drought and the pandemic, along with the mites, and he hopes that next year will bring a better crop for everyone.

“We all have challenges, and we just have to adapt and move on,” Smith said.

To learn more about how you can support local beekeepers and local honey, you can head to the Beekeepers of Lubbock Facebook page.

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