Beekeeper with smoke

Beekeeper Ken Witt of Fremont uses a bee smoker to calm the flying pollinators before opening the hive on Monday morning. The longtime beekeeper enjoys his hobby.

Beekeeper Ken Witt knows how important bees are to people.

Bees pollenate flowers and human food crops and experts estimate a third of the food eaten daily relies on pollination mainly by bees.

More than 150 crops in the United States require pollination for seed production, states information from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln department of entomology.

Most insect pollination is done by bees, flies, moths, butterflies and beetles.

But there has been a decline in pollinators due various causes including loss of habitat, improper use of pesticides, poor nutrition and disease.

Witt said farmers have been using chemical called Neonicotinoids, which has been traced to collapse of bee colonies.

“Typically, a beekeeper could count on keeping three-quarters of their bees through the winter. And now it’s 50 percent or less,” the Fremont man said.

The Associated Press reported in April that the European Union backed a ban on three prevalent neonicotinoid pesticides set to take effect at the end of the year.

There are other factors, such a parasites.

The Varroa mite also has caused problems.

“They attach to the bee and feed off of it and there’s enough of them, they weaken the bee in the process,” he said.

As for habitat, there are area crops that bees only can feed off of for a limited amount of time.

Witt is pleased that his hives are near fields where a farmer grows alfalfa and clover.

“He’s happy growing that and I’m happy that he does,” said Witt, who has hives five miles from Fremont.

The University of Nebraska’s entomology department also encourages the creation of habitats for pollinators and there is a Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification.

Information about bees can be found on the university’s website at https://entomology.unl.edu/pollinator-habitat-certification.

UNL also has a Bee Lab, which pursues research questions and extension programs focused on better understanding various stressors impacting pollinator health.

Witt also encourages people who may have a swarm of bees by their yard or house to call the Humane Society or the Omaha Bee Club, who can send a local person trained to get the bees.

“Don’t call an exterminator,” he said. “Call us and we’ll come get them.”


News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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