By Molly Moser
One out of every three bites you take at the dinner table has been directly touched by a certain winged, striped, hairy individual. The other two-thirds of your food has been indirectly affected by the same creature: The honeybee.
“Without bees, you could figure there’d be a food war,” says local beekeeper Bill Johnson. “We’d have a lot of people starving,” adds Louise, his wife and partner in the family honey farm.
Honeybees are not even native to North America, having been imported from Europe, so why are they so critical in the food chain? Prior to the importation of honeybees, moths, blackflies, butterflies, and hummingbirds took care of all the pollination necessary in the U.S – but since much of the plant life we depend on for food is also imported, bees are now a critical part of the ecosystem.
The Johnsons started with one hive in 1993. “We had just bought the farm, and we had apple trees that needed bees for pollination,” said Louise. That first endeavor was a failure – the bees didn’t survive the harsh Iowa winter. The next year, the Johnsons tried again with two hives, and by the end of this week, they’ll have 300 hives with at least 60,000 bees living in each.