GOLD HILL, Ore. – Unhealthy smoke levels are putting already struggling bee colonies at big risk. Beekeepers say unless they take special precautions, they could lose as much as 80% of their livestock.
Experts say honeybees naturally prepare to flee from wildfires. When they see smoke, they stop foraging for food and instead gorge on stores they already have.
That survival mechanism can be useful, but experts say this year they haven’t foraged enough food this year to keep them alive.
“Most of our hives are not sitting on a lot of stores right now, so we’ve already been feeding since about mid-July, which is almost a month earlier than we normally would,” said Beekeeper John Jacob.
Jacob says beekeepers now have to feed their colonies manually if they don’t want to risk losing them over the winter.
He says that feeding could more than double costs, which could impact fruit growers that rely beekeeper colonies for pollination next season.