ONTARIO — A declining number of honey bees continues to be a concern around the nation, although estimates differ as to whether the numbers are down enough to cause concern.

The Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, in a recent report, quoted U.S. Department of Agriculture figures that show 28 percent of honey bees died last winter, 6 percent more than in 2015.

But the USDA says there are more honey bees now than there were 10 years go when there was concern about die-offs in the hives, the association said.

Beekeeper Nick Noyes, of Fruitland, of Noyes Apiaries and the Honey Store, said locally the bee populations have been stable the last couple of years compared to five to 10 years ago when there was a die-off.

Jordan Dimock, who lives in the Mitchell Butte area and takes bees as far as California, said he had a loss early this spring, due to mites that cause viruses in the bees.

It is a management issue, Dimock said. A person needs to medicate the bees and look after them.

“You have to work through it,” he said.

A recent report from the Oregon Department of Agriculture says people can help protect pollinators and increase their numbers by paying attention to what they plant in their gardens and flower beds.

“We are starting to see a lot of bees emerging, particularly native pollinators,” said Rose Kachadoorian, an entomologist with Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a time for homeowners to start looking at the plants in their yard and garden to make sure they are pollinator-friendly,” she added.

Besides having plants that bloom in the spring and early summer, it is important to have plants that bloom into late summer and early fall, Kachadoorian said.

Once in the plants are in the ground, she said gardeners should use an integrated management system in dealing with pests. If pesticides are required, people need to carefully read the instructions on the label and follow them, Kachadoorian said.

Of particular concern are products containing neonicotinoids, she said, which are a potential threat to bees. Those products cannot be used when bees are foraging and plants are blooming, Kachadoorian said.

“If homeowners can just avoid plants when they are in bloom, that is a real plus,” Kachadoorian said. “You’ll want to read the pesticide label before you purchase the product.”

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