OSU teaches Oregonians to raise honey bees as hives struggle

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Oregon had 56,200 commercial honeybee hives in 2011. About two dozen people owned 90 percent of them. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
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Nearly 300 people enrolled in the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program in 2012 and 2013

As honey bees struggle for survival, people are recognizing their role in pollinating key crops and they're increasingly interested in raising them in their backyards. So the Oregon State University Extension Service developed the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program to teach them how to do so.

Participants are paired with mentors in cities around the state. They learn to harvest honey, treat for pests and diseases, and help colonies survive the winter. Graduates of the program are required to share their new knowledge with the community, such as with beekeeping clubs and local schools.

Honey bees are crucial pollinators for blueberries, pears, cherries, apples and some vegetable seeds. They pollinated $19 billion of U.S. crops in 2010. Between 1989 and 2010, the number of managed honey bee colonies in the U.S. fell by 850,000 (or 24 percent) to hit 2.68 million. The number of colony rentals needed to meet pollination recommendations was 30.4 million in 2010.

Sources: Ramesh Sagili, a honeybee research specialist with the OSU Extension Service; Cornell University's study "Insect Pollinated Crops, Insect Pollinators and U.S. Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992–2009"; OSU Extension Service's 2011 Oregon County and State Agricultural Estimates report.

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