In an effort to #savethebees, Delaware’s Department of Agriculture has opened the BeeCheck program to beekeeping hobbyists, according to a report from WHYY’s NewsWorks. The online program was previously only for commercial beekeepers.
It’s a bit like social media tracking for bees: BeeCheck is free and users’ information on their state-registered beehives is added to the DriftWatch map, another online tool where beekeepers, farmers and pesticide applicators share information on bees’ locations.
Folks from Purdue University developed DriftWatch two years ago, and it’s active in 12 states.
About 270 registered beekeepers are in Delaware, and most of them are hobbyists, NewsWorks reported. That accounts for 2,000 to 3,000 hives, and farmers introduce another 3,000 colonies annually to help with crop pollination.
Bees have been dying at a faster rate because of pesticides sprayed on crops, more numerous illnesses and death by mites.
Bill Leitzinger, a hobbyist who has kept bees for a dozen years in Dover and Middletown, said BeeCheck is a step in the right direction, particularly in communicating with farmers.
“We can work with the farmer and make better decisions about where we place our hives,” he told NewsWorks. “We don’t want to place our hives next to this watermelon patch in August when they’re applying pesticides. Maybe we want to move that hive for a few days — that type of communication can save bees.”
Laura Mensch, a hydrologist from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, said the department is also working on the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan to develop strategies for keeping Delaware bees safe and increasing their population.