CATCH THE BUZZ – The Last, Best Refuge for North America’s Bees

North Dakota, with its vast prairies, is perfect for raising honeybee colonies. But can its bees and their keepers, already facing so much stress, survive the widespread loss of grasslands?

PUBLISHED June 27, 2016

Jamestown, North Dakota Dressed in white and veiled in mesh, Zac Browning surveys his apiary, one of 500 beeyards he manages. Thousands of worker bees alight on stacks of wooden boxes, the tiny hair baskets on their hind legs heavy with pollen they collected from clovers, dandelions, and other wildflowers.

A fourth-generation beekeeper, Browning moved here from Idaho a decade ago in search of better habitat for his bees. He is one of hundreds of beekeepers who have flocked to North Dakota over the past several decades. About 250 billion bees—one in five colonies in the United States—spend the summer in the state, which produces about twice as much honey as any other in the country.

“North Dakota is the last, best place in North America to keep bees,” Browning says.

The state’s vast, open prairies with a sparse human population and scant agricultural development offer honey bees a safe haven. Buffered from farm pesticides, they can reap the nutritional benefits of pollen and nectar from a diverse array of flowering prairie plants.

But North Dakota is losing its prairie at an alarming rate.

Read the rest of this National Geographic story here