A Siouxland Sweet Taste of Success, Anthon

27 Nov

Anthon, Iowa, beekeeper Michael Divis likes his second job. Tending to his Siouxland beehives and creating honey for his customers. His first job is that of pastor tending to his flock in Sioux City. Beginning his sweet quest in 1999, Divis said  he didn’t really notice problems with his bees until 2006 when he lost 75% of his bee hives. He began with 300 colonies and ended up with around 42 of them. And  he said “It’s a very disappointing year this year, (2012) in that we lost a large area of foraging for the bees. What you are witnessing is the nightmare beekeeping has become in Iowa.” Divis also said he wished the EPA would investigate because when he walks through set aside fields with golden rod or other flowering plants, “You see no insects. No pollinators of any kind. There ought to be thousands and millions of insects. But you don’t see any insects. You don’t see any insects on these plants. You tell me what is happening to all these insects. There’s none!” Divis believes the insecticides or fungicides for row crops is killing or disorienting the bees. He said when the bees go out to collect the nectar they can’t find their way back to their hives. He said some of his hives are starving because they have no honey, but there is no reason they shouldn’t have honey because in one area it was loaded with sweet clover and blooming flowers and yet the bees are just devastated. The only explanation can be the aerial sprays. “What happens is the drift from the sprays come over  and they just kill everything. And the bees that aren’t dead, they’re so disoriented they can’t even collect honey to feed themselves and to feed the baby bees. It’s a shame. We’re losing all of our area of foraging. There is no where else to go. If we’re going to stay in beekeeping I guess we’re going to have to move to North Dakota or something, or Montana.  Divis said the large commercial bee keepers left Iowa years ago when they saw the struggles of maintaining their hives back then. They all went to South Dakota and North Dakota.

Divis notes that there are some university studies that have looked at pesticides linked to bee deaths. And some newspapershave written stories about the loss of pollinators. Divis has few different locations for his hives, a majority of them in the Loess Hills region where there may be less crop cultivation, but says as the price of corn goes up, there is less set aside acreage that is being set aside. Divis said, “Everything we harvest”… we sell at a farmer’s market.” And Divis stated he enjoys what he is doing, noting, “Any day you don’t get stung is a good day.” More images of Divis and his hives can be found here.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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