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Honey bees important
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For most people, the mention of bees conjures up thoughts of annoyance and fear. Bees make nests around our homes, buzz around us in the garden, and occasionally sting us. What good could these little pests do?

Even though they may seem a nuisance, bees more than make up for it in their most important role - plant pollination.

According to Keith Delaplane, UGA extension bee specialist, one well-used estimate states that one-third of the entire human diet can be traced back to bee pollination.

Bees are responsible for pollinating around 130 agricultural plants in the United States.

The estimated annual value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is more than $9 billion, and more than $70 million in Georgia. Not too bad for such small insects.

Georgia has around 75,000 bee colonies and around 2,000 commercial and hobby beekeepers. The beekeeping industry each year generates $70 million in Georgia through the sale of honey, beeswax and queen and package bee sales.

Our state ranks 14th in the nation for honey production. Georgia is also second in the U.S. in queen bee and packaged bee production. These are bees raised to be shipped out all over the world to start new colonies and pollinate more crops.

Knowing the key role bees play in agriculture, it is important that we take the necessary steps to conserve their populations.

When spraying insecticides, wait until after the blooms have come and gone before spraying. Bees can be easily killed off by pesticides meant to control other insects.

Many people with fruit trees at home unknowingly reduce local bee populations from improper timing of insecticide sprays.

This leads to low pollination rates of the trees, which means fruit production may be drastically reduced.

As mentioned earlier, there are many hobby beekeepers in Georgia. It can be a fun and challenging hobby. Like all endeavors in the garden, it can take a lot of patience.

Many folks have mentioned to me an interest in beekeeping.

It may seem like a daunting task to start a colony of your own. Fortunately, there are several local beekeepers in the Dawson area that are more than willing to share their experience and knowledge with those who might be interested.

The Amicalola Beekeepers Association is hosting a Beekeeping School from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Dawson County Extension Office, 298 Academy Avenue.

The fees for the Beekeeping School are $25, and include a one year membership to the Amicalola Beekeepers Association. There will also be raffles and door prizes.

Attendees will get hands on instruction on many topics including bee biology, beehive components, equipment needs, mentoring, bee diseases and many more.

This is a fantastic opportunity to be introduced to the hobby of beekeeping, or to simply increase your awareness of honey bees.

For information about the event, call (706) 974-8088 or (706) 216-6938.

The Amicalola Beekeepers Association meets the second Tuesday of every month at the Dawson County Extension Service Building.

Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.