What’s the state of bees in Texas?

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of pollinators — bees, flies, and butterflies — continues to decline in America. So much so, that members of the Texas legislature filed bills to get the state in on their protection.

Many of our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by these insects.

Tara Chapman is the owner of Two Hives Honey and says she’s in the bee public relations business.

“They do all the work for me,” said Chapman. “I’m just out there with a bigger megaphone chanting their praises and trying to make people give them a try and see that they aren’t really that scary at all.”

She says honey bees are not as endangered as other types of bees but she’s hoping the more people care about honeybees, the more they’ll care about pollinators in general.

Honeybees are so important to American farmers that the U.S. Department of Agriculture actually puts out a year-to-year report. According to the most recent report from Spring 2018, colonies went down by 425,000 colonies, or 16 percent.

This still left the number of total colonies by April 2018 at 2.69 million. 

Many large commercial farmers treat honeybees like livestock.

“Honeybees are the only bees we can pack on the back of semi-trucks and drive around for pollinators for those services,” said Chapman.

The bees in danger are wild bees, like bumblebees. The two major threats are the common use of pesticides and the growth of cities, covering up natural bee environments.

There are several bills going through the Texas legislature now, including one that would ban bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids on state highways and public roads. 

Chapman says those efforts usually fail — the way of many state efforts to regulate business.

What would improve bee health — she says — is more people buying their food locally and not from large scale, chemical heavy, farms.

“Supporting your local farmers is really important because they’re utilizing practices that are really really good for the health and performance of all of our bees,” said Chapman.

There are two other bills in the Texas House that would protect pollinators if passed. House Bill 136, by Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, would require the creation of educational materials that teach the best ways of avoiding the deaths of pollinators due to pesticides. It would include steps pesticide users can take to protect bees like alternative products, when the chemicals should be used and precautions. 

HB 2484, by Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, calls for a Bee Pollinator Goals Task Force to be created. The governor-appointed group would have to report on the state’s bee population, habitat loss and ways to sustain the population. 

The bee-related bills came up for a public hearing in the House Agriculture Committee but the bills were left pending.

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