Another threat is the varroa mite, an insect parasite that attacks honeybees. While there are artificial defenses against varroa mites, McGarry said that those defenses can themselves cause problems, since a certain percentage of mites always survive, and they are the ones that reproduce, passing on a virtual immunity to whatever was used against them.
“Treatment has raised some smart mites, and not brought out the best in the bees,” McGarry said.
The importance of honeybees as pollinators has led to fears of ripple effects from the threats they face.
“From a crop perspective, we need honeybees,” said Amy Ivy, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County.
Although there are other pollinators, she said, “Honeybees are a vital part of food production.”
So what can people do to help the honeybee? Crawford sums it up this way: “Plant more flowers. Use less pesticides.”
“I think I would keep bees even if I didn’t take honey from them,” McGarry said of beekeeping.
“There is a deep sense of comfort to watching a particular animal, in this case, the bees. Watching them coming and going loaded down with pollen.”
Depending on its source, the pollen may be yellow or orange or purple.
The rich smell around the hives tells him what food sources his bees have been using. And, “if the wind is right,” McGarry said, the aroma of the hives carries a good distance across the fields and down the road.
“And then there’s the sound — the gentle hum,” he said.
“There are all these sensory delights.”