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Local beekeepers welcome president's help on bee research

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jun 27 2014 08:19:21 PM CDT

President Obama wants to devote $50 million for research on why so many honeybees have died in the past several years.

BLACK FOREST, Colo. -

Honeybees in Colorado seem to be faring better than those across the country that have mysteriously died by the millions in recent years, area beekeepers said Friday.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama announced his intention to allocate $50 million next year for several agencies to study the causes of the die-offs and related impacts.  He also wants to provide more conservation areas for bees, butterflies and other insects and animals that transfer pollen between plants. 

Pollination allows an estimated 90 fruit, vegetable and nut crops in the U.S. to produce seeds and reproduce.

The decline in honeybees threatens a $24 billion share of the nation's agricultural industry, including honey production.  Some states, such as California with its almond crop, don't have enough bees for pollination and must import bees from elsewhere.

Parasites, viruses, habitat loss, and chemicals in pesticides and herbicides have been cited as possible factors in honeybee deaths.

However, two local beekeepers with a combined 50 years of experience said bees in Colorado haven't been as greatly affected, though the exact reasons why are unclear.

"We've just been swamped with them," said John Hartley of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association.  "Maybe all the disappearing bees have come to Colorado.  (Deaths) are an issue but we're not as heavily (in) agriculture, where they're coming in with these new pesticides."

Hartley said Colorado vine crops such as cantaloupes could be affected by a decline in honeybees.

"I think part of (Colorado's success) was luck and that we don't have a lot of large commercial beekeepers," said Mike Halby of the Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association.

Halby said the combination of factors believed to be causing the die-offs, called Colony Collapse Disorder, claimed as much as 90 percent of individual bee populations.  He said Colorado still loses about one-third of its bees during the winter.

A positive aspect of the honeybee situation, Halby said, is that it has raised awareness and generated more interest in beekeeping.

For more information, visit  http://coloradobeekeepers.org/education/colorado- beekeeping-associations-and-clubs/ or http://www.pikespeakbeekeepers.org/.

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