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Honey bees in jeopardy

Lawton_Honey bees are in trouble.  Why should you care?

The bees are largely responsible for the food we eat.  They keep our plants growing by spreading their pollen, and beekeepers say they pollinate 1/3 of the food we eat.  Although pollination is possible without bees, secondary pollinators are also dying off. 

No one is quite sure why the honey bee population is dwindling, but experts in Oklahoma can agree on something - the presence of Africanized honey bees - killer bees - in the state.  Because of that presence, beekeepers have work much harder to keep their hives pure.  Experts call the drastic disappearance of honey bees "Colony Collapse Disorder."  The crisis is bad for the environment, bad for the economy - bad for everyone. 

Beekeeper Gary Gross says that the bee populations have been dwindling for about 20 years, but he has seen his own population decrease by half in just the last two years.  "There's something wrong," he says.  "Whether it's in the environment, or the chemicals that we take for granted, modern food production we have...I don't think any one person has the answer, but it is definitely a concern for all of us."

Gross says there are many factors that can complicate honey bee survival and keeping.  "You know, with the African bee genetics that we're fighting, as well as a multitude of problems with the varroa mites, and of course habitat destruction - it all plays a key role."  The Africanized bee is dangerous for the hives since they don't produce honey or pollinate plants. 

Gross says this species of bee is destructive to a colony born to work - and if the honey bees aren't working, we aren't eating.  "If bees are directly responsible for 1/3 of the food you put in your mouth, and we lose the bees, we're going to lose a third of the food," says Gross.  "Bees are needed for alfalfa production.  Alfalfa is a key ingredient to feeding dairy cows so we get the milk that we drink every day."

To ensure the working hives are full of pure European honey bees, beekeepers must replace their queen every year, but the waiting list for a replacement queen is 18 months long.  So, even if bees make most people a little nervous - we still need them.  Purchasing honeu locally can also help people with seasonal allergies since bees pollinate local plants.  The honey can help the immune system fight off allergens naturally.  The protein in one ounce of bee pollen is equal to six ounces of steak - fat and cholesterol-free.

Country Music Television's (CMT) "Trick My Truck" recently chose Gary Gross to get a tricked-out, bee-themed rig.  Once the show airs on CMT, 7News will have permission to show you all of its bells and whistles, and how this rig has helped his company.

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