Honey bees are an integral part of our ecosystem and food supply.

At Forester Farms and Apiary in Rising Fawn, Georgia, owner Derick Forester works hard to maintain his beehives and also provide supplies and knowledge to enthusiasts about the importance of honey bees.

Honey bees and other pollinators, such as bumble and mason bees, are needed to keep plants growing.

They pollinate up to 70 to 90 percent of our food sources, which means without them, food selection would be greatly diminished.

"Within four years, mankind would probably not be here because of that. Everybody, it would be a starvation thing because that is how important our bees are to us," Forester said.

Unfortunately, the population of honey bees is declining.

Forester said that feral bees, which occur in the wild, are not as prevalent as in the past due to the use of pesticides and chemicals that cause colony collapses.

Bees forage in a 5-mile area, so any pesticides used within the radius can cause harm, such as weed killer on dandelions.

"If it doesn't kill them instantly, what they've been sprayed with, they can take that back to the colony or the hive of bees, and that would be devastating because it would absolutely cause that hive to collapse," Forester warned.

There are natural solutions.

"It's a homemade weed killer, which doesn't harm any of the pollinators, which is a simple mixture of Dawn dishwashing liquid, Epsom salt, and vinegar," Forester stated.

Mix one gallon of vinegar with two cups of Epsom salt and a ¼ cup of dawn dish soap.

In recent decades, other insect pests that make their homes inside of beehives have been increasing.

Forester uses heat, not chemicals, to kill these pests without harming the bees.

For these reasons, keeping honey bees alive nowadays is a challenge.

"If you see them in a big wad on a tree or something, then you could call a local beekeeper to have them come remove them instead of killing them," Forester recommended.

In addition to pollination, honey bees provide delicious honey, which is harvested and extracted in our area usually in July.

In one large beehive, there are about 40,000 to 50,000 honey bees in May. It will peak later this summer at around 60,000 bees.

If you're interested in beekeeping yourself, Forester recommends reaching out to a local bee association to get started.