Help keep honeybees safe with DriftWatch

By Lisa Jensen
SUN Columnist
Honeybees: Did you know that a honeybee flies 10 to 15 trips each day and makes 1,600 round trips in order to produce 1 ounce of honey? Honeybees need the honey, as well as pollen and water, to feed the hive in order to survive over winter.
During all this foraging, bees are pollinating flowers, which produce the food crops we need to survive. Over $15 billion worth of crops in the United States are pollinated by bees each year. Every third bite of food you eat came to your mouth thanks to pollinators. Other pollinators include native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and flies.
In one trip, honeybees visit 50 to 350 flowers and may visit a few thousand. Pollination occurs as honeybees are collecting nectar from one flower after another, incidentally transporting pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another.
Bees forage on average over a 2-mile radius and may travel up to 6 miles from the hive. (By the way, bears can smell honey from 5 miles away.) This means that bees are susceptible to toxins from pesticide not only near the hive, but from miles away.
If you are a beekeeper, perhaps you already know all that. You have likely also been checking on your hives, ordering new bees and getting excited about spring and the flowers that will soon start popping up and start the honeyflow.
One more thing you might do this spring is register your beehives on BeeCheck, the easy-to-use online registry accessed through DriftWatch: https://driftwatch.org.
To protect bees, Purdue University started DriftWatch, a voluntary online specialty crop site registry and mapping program. The registry now functions in 20 states, including Colorado (and Saskatchewan, Canada). This voluntary communication tool enables crop producers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators to work together to protect specialty crops and apiaries. Pesticide applicators can search the map to locate apiaries so they can contact beehive owners before applying pesticide. Beekeepers may then be able to contain their bees temporarily so they are not poisoned by the pesticide.
Beekeepers and agricultural producers can sign up on https://driftwatch.org. Professional pesticide applicators can also sign up. To sign up as a specialty crop producer, you need to be a commercial producer, but to register your hives, you can be a commercial or hobby beekeeper. If you do not want everyone to be able to see the location of your hives, you can mark them as “private” and they will only be visible to registered applicators.
While not all professional applicators are registered in DriftWatch, our local Archuleta County Weed and Pest supervisor, Ethan Proud, is. He also took the Colorado Beekeeper Mentorship Program recently offered by Archuleta County’s CSU Extension program to learn more about bees and how to protect them.
Bees are extremely susceptible to pesticides and other toxins, as well as a myriad of pests and diseases. One way we can ensure their survival (and ours) is by ensuring they are not exposed to pesticides. Some of us do this by growing organically, but due to the range that bees forage and that chemicals can drift, we need to consider what other producers are doing beyond our own property. One way to help is by registering your hives on DriftWatch.
Upcoming events
May 25: Bee workshop. We will be heading to the Banded Peaks Ranch to visit with beekeeping experts and get hands-on experience with the bees. The workshop costs $25 and is limited to 20 people. Lunch will be provided. This is an all-day workshop, so please wear appropriate clothing and anything else you would need for being outside all day. Please call the office to sign up and pay, 264-5931.
Aug. 1-4: Archuleta County Fair. Do you quilt or sew, can vegetables or fruit, grow hay crops, veggies or flowers? Maybe you do leather or wood work? Possibly brew beer or make wine? Or, maybe you have a hidden crafting talent that you would like share with us? If so, then you can enter the Archuleta County Fair Open Classes. Go to www.archuletacountyfair.com/exhibits-rules to find out how to enter. It’s homegrown and county pride.

This story was posted on May 14, 2019.