Weeks of smoke-filled skies in the Bay Area and throughout the state could cause problems for California's bee population.
Beekeepers work with a small device that emits smoke, but Boris Baer, a professor of bee health at the University of California, Riverside, said that recently, it seems like the entire state has become one of those devices.
“We know that smoke interacts with the type of smells used to find food, and basically either hides them or destroys them,” Baer told KCBS Radio. “So, it could well be that if you have these effects over such prolonged periods of time that bees start to get real trouble to find food.”
More than 80 crops of agriculture interest depend on bee pollination, or about one-third of what we eat, said the professor.
However, there has not been much research on the effect of wildfire smoke on bees, because so much smoke, for so long, has not previously been considered normal in California.
“Honey bees have the advantage that they store food, so they have honey storage, we all know that,” Baer said. “But, they also store the other kind of food they have, which is pollen, so they can survive in the hives for a while.”
Unfortunately, California bees have lost time to store up more food for winter, and some colonies may have less of an area to gather food from, if they are near a burn zone.
“Bees already struggle, and now these climatic conditions here in California, and now these wildfires, will not help to restore bee health and safeguard bees and their pollination services into the future,” Baer noted.