Retired corporate executive passionate about saving bees
Marilyn Neal devotes her time and energy rescuing honeybee hives because she thinks there’s a nationwide epidemic that could lead to the honeybee’s extinction.
Neal, the owner of Diamond Oaks Bee Farm, provides a bee-rescuing service for the residents of Pilot Point, Aubrey and Tioga.
Neal doesn’t charge any money for the service, but she does take donations. In addition to rescuing bees, Neal also leases bees to local homeowners looking for agricultural exemptions on their state taxes.
According to Neal, the life of the honeybee is rapidly declining because of several factors. “The biggest problem is pesticides,” Neal said. “As soon as someone sees a dandelion in the yard, they start spraying pesticides. The dandelion is one of the first foods for the honeybee. Dandelions and other pre-spring flowers die with the heat anyway, so instead of spraying, just wait a little bit and they’ll die out eventually.”
Instead of using pesticides, a bottle of Dawn soap mixed with water will keep the pests away, Neal said.
“Neonicotoid is a popular pesticide used by farmers and now it’s on the shelves of business like Lowe’s and Home Depot,” Neal said. “The seeds are coated with pesticides, so when the plant blooms, any pollinator that goes into the bud will get poisoned.”
Also threatening the life of honeybee is an external parasite called the Varroa mite.
According to an article by the University of Kentucky’s entomology department, Varroa mites attack honeybees and suck the blood from the adults and developing brood, shortening their life cycle.
“When Varroa mites were first discovered in the 80s, we threw pesticides on them that didn’t kill the bees, but the mites (died),” Neal said. “As the mites pesticides. Now we’re to the point where they use even stronger pesgot stronger, we used stronger ticides that get into the wax and the honey.” Neal said because of the decline of honeybees in the country, trucks of bees are transported to different farms across the state to pollinate crops. “There aren’t enough bees in the United States to pollinate our almond crops, and we produce 80 percent of the world’s almonds,”
Neal said. “We have so few bees that we have to truck them around and the death rate of those bees are huge.” Neal, who’s currently retired, worked as a corporate executive for 40 years before working as a beekeeper. “When I was still working, I’d read articles about colony collapses and how we were losing over 50 percent of our bees each year and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s like Armageddon,’’’ Neal said. “I was surprised that I didn’t see more of it on TV.”
Neal stays in Pilot Point for six months out of the year to take care of her hives; her home residence is in Florida. People can do their part in prolonging the lives of the honeybees by not spraying pesticides, making sure pesticides aren’t in the seeds they buy from the gardening store and they can buy bee friendly plants like hyacinth, borage and calendula.