Traveling bees keep West Michigan’s farms in tip top shape

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SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. -- Honey bee populations have been on the decline in West Michigan for the past 20 years, so local farmers who depend on the bees have gotten creative.

They import them, all the way from Florida.

Every year, Paul Runnals trucks in hundreds of hives to DeGrandchamp Farm in South Haven. Runnals is a traveling bee keeper who moves all over the Midwest taking his bees to where they are needed.

For the past few weeks, the bees have been buzzing through the blueberry fields. "The bees did their job here," says farmer Joe DeGrandchamp, "Without insects transferring the pollen, there wouldn't be any berries. That's what makes the seeds in the berries, making the berries swell to their yummy size."

And the fields are looking great. There are nice full blueberry clusters on perfectly pollinated bushes.  "Without the bees, I would venture to say 70% of the crop would not get pollinated," says DeGrandchamp.

The time is up for the bees at DeGrandchamps, so they'll move on.  Runnals will gather them up taking them to the next field that needs them. But it's a process says Runnals, "You'll lose some bees. You wait till evening when it's cooler and the bees basically come home at night. They know where home is and away you go with them."

Away to the next farm in need of pollinating. Runnals says his bees work on apples, squash, pears, vegetables and of course, blueberries. Come winter though, the bees and Runnals get a vacation. "We go to Florida with them in the winter. It helps boost them so they are ready for pollination in the spring."

Making those bees...snowbirds.

Tracy & Paul

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