Beekeepers, businesses combat declining honeybee populations

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Honey bees are an important part of our environment, playing a critical role in agriculture. That's why the disappearance of honey bees – known as Colony Collapse Disorder -- is so alarming. Researchers point to a host of possible causes, including recently the use of pesticides. Now more people are getting involved in the effort to find a solution, from Suncoast bee keepers to the president of the United States.

Over the past 60 years the number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined from 6 million beehives in 1947 to just 2.5 million today. It’s an issue that the white house is now addressing, with President Obama recently introducing a plan aimed at strengthening pollinator habitats in core areas, doubling the number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program and increasing funding for surveys to determine the impact of pollinator losses.

Here on the Suncoast, we have beekeepers like Shaun Knepp of My Sweetest Honey who says the shortage of bees has hit Sarasota.

"A year and a half ago I lost over half my bees in just one winter alone,” Knepp says. “My parents were beekeepers they would loose maybe five percent a year, and I'm losing probably about the 30-percent range."

East of I-75, The Ritz-Carlton golf course will soon bring in honey bees colonies and plant the flowers they need to make their honey.

"You know I think it’s all of our duties to make sure that we do our part," says Sean O’Brien, Director of Grounds at Ritz-Carlton.

That honey will be used in the Ritz’s kitchens and gift shops. As for Knepp, he says that supply and demand is working, and as the supply of honey dwindles, the price consumers pay keeps going up.

"If it keeps going down this track it could collapse a business,” O’Brien says. “But I believe that I can keep my bees alive enough to stay in business."

To address this bee shortage in the 2015 budget, the White House plans to recommend $50 million for research, land management and education – an amount that the beekeepers at My Sweetest Honey worry won’t be enough to make an impact.