The art of apiculture, more colloquially known as beekeeping, is often overlooked or entirely forgotten, but this little-known field is highly important to agriculture. Honey bees help maintain the health of crops that humans readily consume, as well as the flowers we admire on a daily basis. The Chester County Beekeeper’s Association boasts approximately 200 members, from novice to professional, who care for local honey bee colonies. Carmen Battavio is among them, an expert apiarist who sells local honey under the name Carmen B’s Honey, and cares for approximately 50 hives in the area.

A plumber by trade, around 10 years ago, Battavio noticed that his large vegetable garden was suffering. After conducting a considerable amount of research, he learned that bolstered honey bee pollination of plants could provide a wealth of benefits. At the time, honey bees were scarce, driven off in droves with no temptation to stay in area gardens.

Honey bees are currently facing an epidemic called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the cause of which might be one or a combination of about a dozen different theories, ranging from mites to genetics to global warming to excessive pesticide use. Though it does not directly affect human health, CCD does significantly impact the survival rates of entire colonies, which is detrimental to the quantity of crops that can be pollinated by bees. Honey bee pollination of an estimated 75 percent of American crops adds a value of approximately $15 billion to the country’s agricultural production. “It’s a very, very important part of our food chain,” says Battavio. Without honey bees, people must rely on more genetically modified organisms (GMOs), forced to adapt to changing harvest patterns with inorganic supplements.

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