Virginia’s honey bee colonies continue to dwindle. State apiarist Keith Tignor says that between October and April, the honey bee population dropped by one third. That compared to the national loss rate of 23%. Honey bees are essential for the development of crops and crucial to the state’s $52-billion agriculture industry. Scientists believe the losses are likely caused by a combination of multiple stressors including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens and exposure to pesticides. There are several ways to help protect honey bees. One is to select plants that are known to attract pollinators. When using pesticides, read and follow the directions on the label. Tignor says another way is the consider becoming a beekeeper. You can learn more at VABees@vdacs.virginia.gov.