MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A deadly disease is wiping out bee populations across the globe and now it’s making its way through Florida. If the disease isn’t stopped, it could mean a spike in food prices.
It’s called the Deformed Wing Virus and it makes bees unable to pollinate.
Bees are nothing to swat at. The US Department of Agriculture says bees pollinate 75 percent of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in this country. Thus, if the bees keep dying off, it’ll present a big problem.
University of Florida Master Beekeeper Kevin Lausman manages thousands of bees in his hives. It’s easy for him to spot the bees with Deformed Wing Virus.
He held a few in his hand while talking to News Channel 8. “This guy doesn’t have any wings left on him. They can crawl but they can’t fly,” he told 8 On Your Side.
The bees obviously have crippling issues. Their wings are misshapen or missing. They are unable to pollinate. In time, they will die.
In recent years, the disease has wiped out millions of bees around the world, and researchers are seeing more cases here in Florida. The disease is spread through a parasite.
“It’s really a big issue. If we don’t find out what’s killing the bees, what’s causing this die off, our food prices are going to get very high,” Lausman said.
His bees serve a vital purpose at Palma Sola Botanical Park. The critters pollinate the lush plants and unique fruits found there. Without the bees, the plant life wouldn’t thrive.
“(Bees are) very important here in Florida for many of our crops and they’re just part of the outdoors, and that’s what this park is about,” Nick Baden with Palma Sola Botanical Park said.
They’re important to every food grower in the US so researchers are working hard to stop them from disappearing.
“If you like food, we need to pay attention to why the bees are dying off,” Lausman said.
You can help in the effort by supporting local beekeepers and buying local products, including honey. If you’re bold enough, you could even raise bees of your own and help contribute to the bee population.