Northwest Beekeepers Impatient With Cautious EPA

By Tom Banse

A swarm of factors is causing heavy losses in honey bee colonies. That's the bottom line of a report issued jointly Thursday by the E-P-A and U-S-D-A. The report identifies a parasitic mite as a leading culprit... in combination with diseases, poor nutrition, genetics and pesticide exposure. People who care about bees here in the Northwest were underwhelmed.

Disappointment comes from both the president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association and the director of a Portland-based conservation group, the Xerces Society. They looked in vain for signs the EPA would move more quickly to restrict a class of pesticides suspected of harming bees. Separately, the federal report makes scant mention of one promising new strategy. Washington State University entomologist Steve Sheppard says moving beehives indoors helped some large commercial beekeepers cut winter kill in half.

Steve Sheppard: "Instead of carrying the bees down to California to sit for two or three months - where they can fly but not actually gather food - they've been putting them in cold storage up here in the Northwest."

Sheppard says unused fruit and potato warehouses turned into temporary bee refuges.
Oregon State University surveys find bee colony losses in the last few years averaging around 18-25 percent annually around the Northwest.

"Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health" (USDA/EPA):
http://www.usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
http://www.xerces.org/

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