Local beekeepers worry about future repercussions from Southern Oregon wildfires

14 September 2021

Published by https://ktvl.com/

After the wildfires in Southern Oregon killed a countless number of bees, local beekeepers worry about the future of the hives as the effects of the fires continue to play a role in them.

Sharon Schmidt, a beekeeper and the president of Cascade Girl lost eight hives in the Almeda fire. At the time of the fire, Schmidt’s hives contained roughly 40,000 bees inside each of them.

Schmidt is only one of the many beekeepers in the area who lost hives to the flames.

“When I say we lost the bees, we lost all the hives, and there was actually nothing left except the bricks that they were on,” Schmidt said.

She explained she has several hives located throughout the Rogue Valley which she uses to educate residents about bees.

Schmidt also advocates for them through the local nonprofit, Cascade Girl. The organization’s mission is to keep bees and other pollinators alive.

Prior to the fire, the organization had several hives located at Fire District 5, which Schmidt ended up rescuing after they initially survived the fire.

“The honeybees at Fire District 5 ultimately did not survive and we think that is probably related to smoke and heat pressure, as well as probably the chemical overlay they were exposed to on flowers when forging,” she noted.

Mike Miller, a beekeeper in Grants Pass with over 55 years of experience explained how even after the flames were put out, the bees dealt with the repercussions.

“The old field bees would go out to the flowers which were still around, but the flowers were covered with toxins from all the trailers and everything that burned,” Miller said.

In the Almeda fire alone, over two thousand structures burned down which left behind hazardous materials. Miller said some of the bees which consumed the material, died instantly, while others took it back to their hives.

“Those toxins then went into the brood, what we call baby bees, that weakened the brood so they could not continue to perform their duties in the hive,” he said.

Miller said as a bee advocate and a member of several bee clubs, he stays in contact with other beekeepers throughout the area. After the fires broke out several told him they had completely lost their hives.

Each beehive can contain up to 60,000 bees in each of them at one time. Since the number of burned down hives is unknown, the number of bees that died in the fires can range from millions to billions.

Both Schmidt and Miller said the long-term effects of the wildfires on the hives will be more prevalent when Spring comes.

They explained when the weather warms up, beekeepers can safely inspect the inside of the hives, which will give them a better understanding of how deep they were affected.

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