Invasive insect could sting honey industry

Local News

North Dakota might be number 47 in population, but it’s No. 1 when it comes to honey production.

Last year, North Dakota honeybees churned out nearly 34 million pounds of honey.

And while that number was lower than the previous year, North Dakota was still No. 1 for the 16th consecutive year.

“Last season was a great season. I averaged over 100 pounds per hive and it was the best season I’ve ever had in my 10 years of doing beekeeping,” said beekeeper Dan Buresh.

Buresh keeps his hives about an hour southwest of Mandan and says near perfect conditions last year led to his bountiful crop.

And as the cold of winter slowly slides from our memory banks, many beekeepers are starting to get ready for another season.

Beekeepers all across North Dakota have enough to worry about on a yearly basis when it comes to the health of their hive. Everything from a lack of flowers, to pesticides to even pests themselves. But now a new species of insects in North America could be the biggest challenge beekeepers have ever faced.

Specifically the Asian Giant Hornet, which can grow to more than two inches in length.

And it has pretty much one goal — to seek out honeybees and destroy them.

Studies out of Asia and the U.K. have shown an attack by a group of 30 Asian Hornets can wipe out a honeybee colony of over 30,000 bees in just a few hours.

And now it’s in America, discovered just three states away in Washington in December.

KX News spoke with the NDSU Extension who said North Dakota rail lines could be the perfect transport method for the killer hornets.

“We sit on a main rail line, coming from the west coast, so a lot of shipments, 2019 was that first year it was found in North America and they’re believing it probably arrived by cargo ship. So you think about how it came to North America it was that way via movement of good coming across the country, that’s always a possibility,” said Travis Prochaska, a Crop Protection Specialist with the NDSU Extension.

And with most of North Dakota bees coming from different parts of the country, it’s a headache beekeepers don’t need.

“It’s just another layer that could be added to the many problems, beekeeping, like many agricultural industry the profit margins are razor thin and so everything that we keep adding to the production of honey can have an effect on the industry as a whole,” said Buresh.

The good for North Dakota is it’s brutally cold winters would most likely kill any queens that try to hibernate in the ground. So for now things look OK, but you never know what the next train might bring.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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