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June 07, 2002   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
June 07, 2002

The mysterious deaths of thousands of Alabama bee colonies could financially strap state honey producers and could affect pollination of virtually all farm crops in Alabama, except grasses and nut crops.

Buddy Adamson, director of the Federation's Bee and Honey Division, has been collecting data along with state officials to determine losses in Alabama. Adamson estimates the value of honeybees lost, along with lost honey production and losses in sales of packaged bees and queens, is $750,000.

Ted Kretschmann of Dadeville is president of the Alabama Beekeepers Association. He has about 1,700 colonies producing honey on 86 farms in 12 central Alabama counties. He said he's lost 900 colonies so far this year, and other beekeepers have had similar losses.

Kretschmann typically produces about 100,000 pounds of honey each year that is sold under the Sue Bee label. He told the Birmingham News in a recent story that his hives won't produce any honey this year.

"The bees that have survived are so weak they won't produce," Kretschmann said. Alabama beekeepers aren't sure what's causing the problem. Two spider-like parasites have been weakening and killing bees across the U.S., but some experts believe the deaths can be traced to a mixture of viruses that are infecting hives.

Adamson said samples of the dead bees are being sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Maryland for analysis. In the meantime, he and state officials are exploring what federal emergency funds may be available for producers. "We're going to take a two-pronged approach," said Ronnie Murphy, deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture. "We will sit down with our congressional delegation at the staff level and ask them to help us if they can, and we're going to ask the USDA to help us as well."

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