- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

FISHERSVILLE, Va. (AP) The drought has wilted corn stalks, browned lawns and withered plants that supply nectar to honeybees.
As a result, honeybee production is down this summer, and beekeepers are worried about the winter months to come.
Usually, Warren Showalter's 725 honeybee hives each produce 80 pounds of honey. This year they produced an average of just 43 pounds per hive.
"The thing about beekeeping, it doesn't matter how good you are or how good you manage your bees, you're always susceptible to the weather," said Mr. Showalter, who has kept honeybees for 32 years.
"Right now, they're eating more now than what they're gathering because the flowers are dried up," Mr. Showalter told the Daily News-Record of Harrisonburg.
Richard Fell, an entomology professor at Virginia Tech who works with Virginia's beekeepers, said colonies must have 50 to 60 pounds of honey to feed themselves through the winter months. Honeybee colonies at the university in Blacksburg are producing about 40 pounds, he said.
"We're not seeing, at least in our area here in south Virginia, a lot of production this year, I think partly because of the lack of water," Mr. Fell said.
Most beekeepers stop collecting honey during the first part of August. This year Mr. Showalter stopped collecting honey from most of his hives in the middle of July. By the first week in August, he was done.
Mr. Showalter isn't laying all the blame on the drought. A cold snap in May set his bees behind in production by a good three weeks.
Fred Hollen, former president of the Shenandoah Valley Beekeepers Association, said honeybees need enough food to last through springtime and to continue producing more bees. Reproduction slows when the food supply shrinks.
"They need young bees because those are the ones that will live long enough to get through the winter," Mr. Fell said.
He said beekeepers will have to keep their bee colonies from starving to death. At the end of October, they can start feeding their honeybees sugar water.

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