Bee population continues to decline impacting local Honey farms

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The buzz about the decline of the country's honeybee colonies continues as beekeepers struggle to create honey and grow their bees. But as the area endures drier pastures the honey business becomes even more difficult.

5 Star Honey Farms founder, Will Nissen, likes to show off his bees colonies but over the past few years there's been less to show.

"It was really, really hard to get used to losing 30, 40 percent of the bee colonies. We've learned to work with it a bit. We just run a lot more and lose a lot more," (Will Nissen, 5 Star Honey Farms)

But it's not just a problem for Nissen. The bee population is dwindling nationwide.

"Over the last 10, 15 years or so we've actually been experiencing a decline in the bee population. Not just that of the honeybees, but that of the native bees as well," said Travis Prochaska, North Central Research Extension Center Area Specialist.

The Center for biological diversity says population levels of more than 700 North American bee species are declining as habitat loss and pesticide use continue.

"There's actually a variety of reasons to that, the most common one is probably chemical use," said Prochaska.

And with a decline in honeybees, making honey becomes more of a challenge.

For North Dakota honey farmers the bee population being on decline is not the only worry here but it's also the drought. With drier weather the honey is also on the decline.

"What we make money off of in farming is sunflowers and there's about nill for sunflowers so if we don't get some rain to pick up this Alfa Clover deal we'll pretty much be done making honey for the year," said Will Nissen, 5 Star Honey Farms.

But bees make more than honey-they are also a key to food production because the pollinate crops.

"It's very important as far as our diets going forward. Keeping some of those vegetables and our fruits in tack to have for our diet," said Prochaska.

Proving that honeybee health is a community matter.

Nissen and Prochaska say you can help on a small scale by carefully choosing the pesticide you use and to use that at times that are most economically and ecologically effective.