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Extension Service agents try to ease honeybee crisis

January 29, 1997

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ What this country needs is a lot more beekeepers.

State agricultural agents in North Carolina and South Carolina are hoping some backyard gardeners will consider beekeeping, a hobby that has been largely forgotten but is essential to crops and flowers.

Raising bees has never been more important, since populations were sharply reduced in recent years by two parasitic mites. That has left many gardeners with a lot less of the squash, cucumbers, melons and other crops they once enjoyed in abundance.

While scientists wrestle with a solution to the honeybee’s widespread problems with mites, Cooperative Extension Service agents such as Bill Skelton are doing everything they can to get more people to take up beekeeping.

``There has been an increased interest over what it was three or four years ago,″ says Skelton, who works in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties in North Carolina. ``It’s due to a lack of pollinators in gardens. People want to have their squashes, cucumbers, apples, all the crops they’re used to enjoying.″

Several county agents and beekeeping organizations are offering classes on how to handle the little pollinators.

Bob Blackwelder, a past president of the North Carolina Beekeepers Association, says a little attitude adjustment may be necessary for those about to take up the hobby for the first time.

``You’re not in charge of the bees,″ he says. ``You have to work with the bees, understand how they think and act. It’s not a master-type relationship.″

Blackwelder points out that while a human can train a dog to obey commands, a honeybee is immune to that.

``Beekeeping is part science and part art,″ he says. ``The art side is beginning to think like a bee. You look at things from the bee’s perspective.″

Henry Nunnery, a Clemson Cooperative Extension Service agent in York County, S.C., says there are immediate payoffs for gardeners.

``This is a good hobby for the gardener, and a good science lesson for youth,″ says Nunnery. ``It is a complement to the vegetable garden and in some cases, a necessity. One-third of our food supply depends on pollinators.″

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LOVINGTON, N.M. (AP) _ Boll weevils seem to be straying far from the cotton fields back home.

Agriculture officials say the weevils have migrated from the South and are taking over the plains _ and they don’t seem to need a field of cotton for a home any more.

Charlie Waits, an insect trapper for the agriculture extension service in New Mexico, said he’s found the insect in remote areas near Maljamar, where not only is there no cotton, there’s no cultivated land for miles.

Entomologists believe the boll weevil moves by means of a host transporter, such as a truck. Now there’s concern the bugs may relocate on their own.

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