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Bee population hit hard by Central Oregon winter

Bees brought in from S. Oregon to aid in comeback

Bee population suffers after harsh...

BEND, Ore. - It was a harsh winter here in Central Oregon, and not just for people.

All the snow, and freezing temperatures, took a toll on bees, but beekeepers are certain they'll make a comeback. 

Thirty-two boxes of bees arrived in Tumalo Friday from Southern Oregon  -- that's 640,000 bees.

They're being taken to spots across Central Oregon to replenish colonies and pollinate farms and gardens. 

Beekeeper Stephen Harris said he lost 11 of his 15 colonies over the winter, one of the worst winter losses he's had in recent memory.

"There's a lot of individual beekeepers in our area that lost all of our bees," Harris said.  "This year was devastating to the bee population in Central Oregon." 

But several factors leading into winter are also to blame for the major losses.

One of these is a parasitic mite that's causing damage to colonies across the country, explained OSU professor Ramesh Sagili, 

"They're weak because of mites, and then they also probably suffered some psychological stress because of the cold weather," Sagili said.  "If it was only one cold spell, it probably would have been OK, but when there's three or four, then they have some issues."

Bees are built to survive winter by self-regulating hive temperatures, using their bodies. Despite that, this winter saw a noticeable loss of colonies across the region.

"It used to be when a tree would bloom, it would buzz with the honey bees that were coming to the flowers," Harris said. "And this year in particular, you're going to still have that, but as a general rule, with the loss of the honey bees you're going to have less pollination."

But with everyone's help, both beekeepers and bee researchers believe the population will recover.

"It's disappointing they were not able to get a control on mites and had to deal with a harsh winter," Sagili said. "But i think the bees will be back in business soon and the beekeepers will have a good year this year.".

Harris added, "Plant flowers in your yard, get rid of the bark dust around your trees, plant some flowers and you'll enhance the bee population."


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