Local Expert Saving Bees, Securing Future - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Local Expert Saving Bees, Securing Future

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Most people see bees as a nuisance or pest, but scientists see them as the future, since pollination is essential to continue plant and animal life on Earth.

A decline in the bee population now threatens food production around the globe, but a local man, who says he has the solution.

To the untrained eye, it seems simple; a stump of dead wood with holes in it.

But it could be the key to saving the bee population, and in turn, food production around the world.

"If you thought the housing market or the banking industry was a big problem, could you imagine a world with no food?" Bee expert Chester Lee poses a startling question.

Lee was formerly the Master Gardener of Erie County, and now devotes all of his time to bee research, collaborating with the USDA and other organizations.

He's working to combat "Colony Collapse Disorder" which plagues hives from here in Erie, to across the globe in Japan, where their bee population completely died out.

According to Lee, "colony bees are now at 99% losses from 50 years ago."

The answer, he says, is the "bee pole."

Here's how it works: When the wood of the dead tree stump decomposes it gives off a gas, carbon dioxide, that attracts the bees. The queen will follow the scent back and lay eggs in the small holes drilled into the wood.

It provides a solitary environment, where disease can't be spread, and the population can grow.

Having one of Lee's inventions in your garden can increase productivity from 15 to 30%, and for industrial farmers, it can save tens of thousands of dollars in fertilizers. That's good for the economy and the environment.

"When you think about a farmer who's doing 100 thousand acres of grain he might have to spend $70,000 in chemicals to fertilize," said Lee. "Instead of spending that... they could simply put one bee pole for every five acres."

He added, "it's also a good way to keep our ecology safe and clean."

The UN has asked for Lee's patent for the invention that's made its way into the Smithsonian and White House gardens.

He's considering signing it over, overlooking the millions of dollars he's been offered by businesses, for a different kind of payment: "The satisfaction of knowing that I may have made a difference in the world."

Lee's bee poles can now be found on almost every continent, but one of the first ones ever constructed, is right here in Erie, in the garden by the Erie Police department.

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