Local beekeeper hopes bee habitat grant will keep the industry buzzing

Pam Gasper has planted two acres of bee habitat on her land

It’s been a disastrous decade for the bee industry. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has gone from producing more than half of all honey it consumes to importing the majority of it.

But one local beekeeper is hoping a new grant from the government is what the industry needs to keep buzzing.

The United States Department of Agriculture just released a new survey that found beekeepers lost 42 percent of their honeybees last year which is the highest on record. 

Pam Gasper, a Chaseburg beekeeper, said last year was tough but she is expecting a sweet reward at the end of this year thanks to her new honey bee habitat grant.

Gasper has been a beekeeper for three years.

“Three hives and each hive has about 10,000 bees,” said Gasper.

She is expecting a pretty good harvest this year.

“The bees look healthy, they are normal sized and they don’t have deformed wings,” said Gasper.

But last year was a different story because Gasper lost two of her three honey bee hives.

“The cold weather and last summer was dry so they didn’t get to put away quality food like years past so it was really hard on them,” said Gasper.

Gasper’s honeybees aren’t the only ones struggling.

“We have been having a significant bee loss since about 2007,” said Sue Sharp, the southwestern district chair for Wisconsin Honey Producers.

Sharp said the increase use of pesticides and insecticides is doing more harm than good to the beekeeping industry.

“Now we are grasping it is killing all insects not just the select few you were hoping to get,” said Sharp.

And without natural pollinators, the world would see a major decrease in fresh produce.

“A pollinator is responsible for every one in three bites you put into your mouth and so without insects going around and pollinating all of the plants, the plant can’t develop a fruit,” said Sharp.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, Gasper has decided to help the bees out this year.

“I just wanted to make sure there is plenty of food for them so I applied for a grant to put in bee habitat,” said Gasper.

Gasper said the process was pretty smooth.

“I had to check with the neighbors if they used any pesticide and I called them and they don’t,” said Gasper.

And before she knew it, she was creating about two acres of natural habitat for bees.

Gasper may only have about 30,000 bees right now but if they have the right habitat their population could explode.

“Up to 240,000 bees,” said Gasper. “If you are here for them when they need it, they will pay you back sweetly.”

Because honeybees play such an important role in our agriculture, there are a few things you can do right now to help create a better habitat for bees. First, you can limit the amount of pesticides used on your lawn or around your home. And second, when planting you can buy plants that are known to be good for honey bees.

Visit www.wihoney.org if you would like more information about the beekeeping industry.