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    Shue: County’s honeybee population cut in half

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    Deadly mite continues to pose biggest threat to pollinators

    A mite poses the biggest threat to honeybee population. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    The number of honeybee hives and those who keep them was cut in half in Grand County over the past year, according to Honeybee Inspector Gerry Shue.

    Shue during a report to the Grand County Council on Tuesday said the primary issue is the presence of the Varroa destructor mite, a parasitic mite that attacks and feeds on honeybees.

    The disease caused by the mites is called varroosis, but it is not the only enemy threatening the honeybee population. The use of pesticides and climate change also play a role.

    He later said it doesn’t appear last summer’s repeated fogging for mosquitoes had any impact on honeybees because the fogging was done at night when they were in the hives.

    “There’s no doubt it wiped out a lot of beneficial insects,” Shue said of the fogging, “but bees did not suffer.”

    Shue said he continues to collect samples of feral, or wild honeybees and he continues to find genetics that can be traced to Africa. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, however, the bees in Grand County have not demonstrated any of the aggressive behavior Africanized bees are known for — which is not the case in the St. George area.

    “Why we escaped, I don’t know,” said Shue.

    In other bee news, Shue said the U.S. Forest Service is under pressure to allow large hives in the Manti-La Sal Forest, an idea he doesn’t care for.

    “There’s a lot of concern on the impact of native pollinators,” he said, adding bees already in the forest could be outcompeted for food and could catch diseases carried by the large hives.

    The county has an ordinance preventing the importation of such hives, he said, which is something the USFS could use in the decision making process. He urged the county to oppose the “issue of large truckloads of honeybees in the national forest. They are open to input from cooperating agencies,” he said before adding, “I think it’s a bad idea.”

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