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Vermont Beekeeper Loses Half His Bees, Blames Lack of Forage

Dairy farmers are switching from hay feed to corn feed, which many times contains pesticides and fungicides that could be harmful to bees.
BRIDPORT, Vt. -

“You see it drastically in this yard,” points out Chas Mraz, owner of Champlain Valley Apiaries. “There's definitely over 50% losses in this particular apiary.”

Mraz owns and takes care of more than 1,000 colonies of honey bees.

When spring arrives and he opens his hives, he wants to hear buzzing, but a lot of the time lately, he's hearing silence.

Mraz says there's 2 factors at work here: a harsh winter that paralyzed bees from even being able to find food inside the hive and a more long-term issue.

“There's a lack of forage as farming has changed which is one of my biggest concerns here in Vermont,” explained Mraz.

Dairy farmers are switching from hay feed to corn feed, which many times, contains pesticides and fungicides that could be harmful to bees.

“What is happening is a lot of those hay fields have been replaced with corn fields and soybean fields and the hay that's left is being cut really aggressively. And it's not being allowed to bloom,” said Mraz.

Mraz thinks he's lost between 40-50% of his bees this winter.

His findings on Monday come after a massive study conducted by the Vermont Center for Eco Studies.

In it, researchers found that more than a quarter of Vermont's bumble bee species have either vanished or are in serious decline.

Three of 15 bumble bee species in Vermont are extinct.

In addition to cold winters and reduced forage, bees in the state are also battling disease.

“Nothing is really going well for them right now. It's all negative, negative. We need some positive things to come along and help these bees out. Help them survive. Forage, decent forage, will be extremely helpful to the bees,” said Mraz.

As a solution, Mraz suggest seed strategies, like using hay that blooms clover after being chopped.


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