CHARLOTTE, N.C. (PINPOINT WEATHER) – Up to 60,000 bees buzz over 40 pounds of honey per hive.

Frames filled with familiar ingredients are maintained with love by a familiar face.

“You will have your honey and any pollen that they’ve collected, and then the brood along in the middle,” Maryann Wood is president of the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association. “So, bees can actually recognize shapes, so there is a theory that they can recognize their beekeeper.”

Wood says what started as a gardening quest for more flowers left her buzzing about bees for six years.

“I fell in love with the hobby; it’s what I enjoy doing most,” Wood reflected. “It escalated quickly; the bees escalated quickly as it usually does.”

She gets suited up to tend to her bees once every 2 to 3 weeks as temperatures begin to climb above 50 degrees. 

“Last year, I started seeing swarms and getting swarm calls in mid-March, and this year we were getting them as early as February, the beginning of February,” she said.

But this year, the second warmest February on record put her gear to use much earlier than usual.

“Thinking in the longer term, climate change is a big deal for honeybees,” said Libby Mack, who’s been beekeeping for more than two decades.

As part of the North Carolina State Beekeeper Association, she’s seen how more extreme, more violent storms can be an expensive challenge for commercial beekeepers. 

“Every time there’s a hurricane, they have to import carloads upon carloads of sugar to feed their honeybees.” Mack added. “The wild bees have no chance; they don’t have anyone to supplement their diet with sugar.”

Extreme temperature swings leave beekeepers looking for more ways to protect bees from cold snaps in winter and feed their bees come spring. 

“Plants are blooming one week, two weeks, maybe even three weeks sooner, on average, not every year, but over the long term,” Mack explained. 

Playing catch up to mistimed and faster bloom times in spring can be detrimental. 

“If the flowers are gone by the time the insects show up, they are not going to have any food,” Mack said.

Warmer temperatures and heavier rain could also feed parasites, viruses, and bacterial infections. 

“Beekeeping has become far more difficult,” Mack said. “[There’s] much more testing, more examination, and in fact using medicines which is something that we haven’t done very much historically, but we sure do now.”

Two invasive parasites from Asia chew holes in the bee’s exoskeleton allowing the virus to fester. 

“The bees have to fight off that viral infection on their own, or they’re going to die,” she said. “And the viral infection is the source of the vast majority of honeybee colony losses today.”

The honeybees’ struggling health means the economic health of commercial beekeepers and our vegetable baskets. 

“We would not have fruits and vegetables in this country if we did not have commercial beekeepers and commercial honeybees,” Mack said.

Honeybees can uniquely pollinate dozens of crops. 

“Peppers, melons, watermelons, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, almonds… huge crop!” Mack listed.

Unlike other pollinators, they can be transported and managed from farm to farm, season to season.

“I do love it because it is a challenge,” exclaimed Wood. “There are always new problems to solve, new things to learn with the science of beekeeping.”

That’s why beekeeping classes like the ones offered in Mecklenburg County can help bees buzz in harmony, even at a lower hum. 

“It’s so incredible to learn more about it and then understand how to help them naturally,” said first-year student Alicia Thompson. 

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It’s been pure magic.

“The produce that we have, everything that we have to eat and thrive off of, is so interconnected to these little organisms that only live 45 days,” Thompson said. “They’re magical, and we need to do our part to help them!”

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And even for a more veteran hobbyist like Wood.

“I love the girls!” Wood exclaimed. “They’re fun; it’s a fun hobby!”

The magic never fades away.