Honey bees are a key to human existence

Originally published January 14, 2013
By Ike Wilson News-Post Staff
Photos by Adam Fried

maloney_hive(Right) Dave Maloney, president of the Frederick County Beekeeping Association, stands with one of his hives in Frederick on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. The bees were “in cluster” during the winter, so only a few were leaving the hive.

More than $26 million in agricultural produce is attributed annually to honey-bee pollination in Maryland, and beekeepers in the Free State produce more than 100,000 pounds of honey each year.

The importance of honey bees to the human food chain cannot be overstated, David Maloney said. As the newly elected president of the Frederick County Beekeepers Association, he wants to make the public aware of the critical link between the winged creatures and human existence.

“What would the world be like without beans, tomatoes, onions and carrots, not to mention the hundreds of other vegetables, oil seeds such as canola, and fruits that are dependent upon bees for pollination?” Maloney said. “Or the livestock that are dependent upon bee-pollinated forage plants, such as clover and alfalfa?”

No human activity could ever replace the work of bees, yet the work of honey bees is largely taken for granted, Maloney said.

“And it is often not realized just how easy it is to help or hinder their effectiveness as crop pollinators, nor how much is lost by their loss,” he said.

Honey is produced in both country and city, with city beekeepers sometimes producing more honey per hive than their rural neighbors, Maloney said.

“And don’t forget honey bee byproducts such as beeswax, which supports dozens of home-based businesses producing top-quality products such as soaps, lip balms, candles and even mustache wax,” Maloney said.

3bees_outside(Left) Several bees venture out of the hive during an unseasonably warm January day.

In addition to helping produce one-third of all the food humans consume, honey bees benefit the ecology as well. Maloney said pollination of trees and vegetation provides important ecosystem services, including food and habitat for wildlife, improved water filtration, removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, better flood and erosion control, and improved aesthetic and sustainable urban landscapes.

Maloney has been keeping bees for only a year. His son-in-law, an avid beekeeper, introduced him to the craft.

“I soon came to realize that not only would honey bees be good for my garden and the ecology, but beekeeping would make a fascinating hobby as well,” he said.

Maloney said he finds beekeeping an interesting hobby to share with his grandchildren.

“It seems everyone is curious about honey bees, but none more so than young boys and girls,” he said.

Maloney took over the presidency of the local beekeeping group because he was asked to, “but I was happy to agree to the nomination.”

He is confident he will have assistance from the association’s many active members who will continue to carry the burden of running many of the organization’s programs.

“But I also saw a need to improve communications among our members, including redesigning our website to provide our members, as well as the public, with a better opportunity to learn more about the FCBA which, in turn, will hopefully pique their interest in the hobby as well,” Maloney said.

The challenge for today’s beekeeper is to be smarter and better educated and trained because there is more to be aware of, he said.

With all the variables involved with any form of livestock, Maloney said, he quickly saw that beekeeping is a life-long learning experience.

“It is a challenge, indeed, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.”

Honey bees face many stressors, which can lead to die-offs, the president said.

Increased use of pesticides, including those applied by homeowners, pose a serious risk to wild bees as well as the managed colonies, Maloney said. The buzzing creatures also face an array of disease organisms, viruses and the poorly understood phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, in which the entire colony suddenly disappears.

“For these reasons, it is critical that the public realize the importance of supporting the local beekeeping community,” Maloney said.

Maloney succeeds veteran beekeepers Ed Mordan and Bill McGiffin, who led the local association for the previous two years.

McGiffin echoed Maloney, saying the public should be educated about honeybees’ significance to the food chain, and not be afraid of bees.

Comments are closed.