Arkansas' Official Insect Suffers Losses

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas legislators knew 35 years ago that the honeybee was crucial to food production and farming, naming the little gal the state's official insect. Still, state apiary inspector Ed Levi has to work at impressing upon people the importance of the honeybee and what he says is "scary" evidence the bee population is declining at such a rate that farmers and the food supply will take a hit.

Surveys by the Apiary Inspectors found the country's bee population declined about 32 percent among commercially managed hives in 2006 and 36.1 percent in 2007. Levi says the losses were only 5 to 10 percent before the 1980s, when the country had about 4.5 million colonies. Now, the honeybee population is down to about 2 million hives.

Although 2008 was not a particularly bad year for Arkansas' bees and beekeepers, the state's national ranking has been dropping. In 2001, Arkansas was eighth in the nation in honey production. Last year, the state ranked 15th.