Beekeeper battles mites and insecticide
Maybe you’ve seen them off to the right while driving up Bass Lake Grade, hundreds of green and white crates scattered around the old Clarksville town site.
They’re bee hives, and they belong to Bryan Williams of High Sierra Bee Ranch in Rescue.
In some ways they represent a desperate last stand against parasitic mites that attack bee immunity, the medicines that make his queens sterile and insecticides that smother entire hives.
In better times, he would have harvested 1,000 pounds of honey or more from the hives parked in Clarksville. But this year he’s feeding them fructose syrup to keep the hives alive.
Williams, his father Dave and helper Greg Diedart were feeding, medicating and checking up on the colonies last week in preparation for their trip to the almond orchards later this spring.
“We lost a couple hundred hives in the orchards last year,” he said. “They were covered in oily residue.”
He blames copper fungicide insecticide used by commercial orchards and other, even more toxic sprays that smaller growers employ.
“If we lose all the bees this country will be in a world of hurt,” he said. “There will be no alfalfa, no fruit, no agriculture.”
Williams estimated that the U.S. bee population has dropped to 20 percent from pre-mite levels.
He offers free pollination to small ranchers who don’t use harsh insecticides, a practice he said is good for the bees and good for the trees. If you have three or more acres of orchards that need pollination call Williams at (530) 306-9569.