COQUILLE — The Coos County Beekeepers Association raised concerns to county commissioners last week upon witnessing an influx of beehives come into the area and their worries on overcrowding and harvesting.
Shigeo Oku, a member of the Coos County Beekeepers Association, said the group is hesitant on outside beekeepers placing their hives in the county for fear of bringing diseases and overgrazing nectar.
“Migratory bees pick up diseases and bring them back when they travel,” said Oku. “I think our bees should be inspected and regulated.”
According to the group, they’ve surveyed and mapped out over a thousand hives in Coquille. Oku said they want to inform local landowners of one commercial beekeeper in particular, who they claim is here to harvest the blackberry bloom.
“We don’t want them here and people need to pay attention to this,” said Oku. “They take their bees back and then we’re left with not much.”
Currently, there are no restrictions on how many hives a person can own nor are there limits on how many hives you can place in a particular location. However, any person who owns or is in charge of more than five hives within Oregon is required by state statue to register said hives with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).
Director Dr. Helmuth Rogg of Plant Protection & Conservation Program Areas for ODA said the registration was originally recommended by the beekeeping industry after an outbreak of colony collapse disorder hit the U.S. in 2006.
“We use the funds collected by the registration fee to do research at the Oregon State University Bee Lab,” said Rogg. “With registration, it’s basically an honor system that you as a beekeeper understand why we have this rule and follow it.”
Otherwise, enforcing or policing every hive in the state with an inspector or officer doesn’t exist, said Rogg.
“I don’t have people to go around and check if every hive is registered,” said Rogg. “We can’t do that.”
Each year beekeepers are asked to register their hives beginning June 1 by paying a $10 registration fee and an additional $0.50 per colony or hive. Rogg said beekeepers have until July 1 to complete the registration and if they do so after the deadline they will have to pay an increased fee of $20, but the additional cost per hive will remain the same.
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Failure to do so will result in those beekeepers receiving a letter from ODA requesting that they do so immediately. In addition, a class B misdemeanor fine can also be assessed to violators, according to state statute.
The influx of hives pointed out by the Coos County Beekeepers Association within the county seem to belong to Oregon beekeeper Larry Williams of Bee Central, Inc. The Mitchell, Ore.-based beekeeper has been in the industry for over 20 years and is a third-generation beekeeper following in the footsteps of his father, Charles.
Williams said he’s been following the crop blooms around the country for years and with commercial beekeeping, mentioned it’s a necessity to do so. He said he follows a strict schedule starting in the summer pollinating almonds in California, apples and cherries in Washington, honey in Idaho and blackberries in Oregon. In doing so, Williams said he gets permission from landowners before setting up his company’s hives.
“We currently have 1,500 hives in cranberries and about 4,000 in blackberries in locations throughout Coos, Curry, Lane and Douglas counties,” said Williams. “We pollinate and produce our own honey as well as contract our hives for farms and businesses.”
William’s wife, Laura, said they are open and welcome to have residents contact them with their questions or concerns toward the hives they bring in.
“We don’t want to overcrowd an area either,” said Laura. “If we do then we don’t make honey, we only put out hives in areas that can handle it and if there’s a close-by hive we won’t set up there.”
As a rule of thumb, the two said they try to space out their hives about 2-3 miles from each other and try to communicate with the neighbors and county about possible pesticide spraying to preserve their bees. For the first time in their production, Williams said they are looking to make blackberry comb honey with the bees they have in Coos County.
Laura said they are following the state statue and are in the process of renewing their hive registration. According to the current ODA registry log, they have not registered their hives yet but still have time to do so.
The couple mentioned if regulations were to be placed on bee management they would adhere and follow them. Williams suggested having beekeepers register their hives with their counties and disclose their exact location to avoid accidental killings of bees by people spraying pesticides on their crops. Adding it would give commercial beekeepers time to move hives and relocate to keep them alive.
Coos County Commissioner John Sweet said after meeting with the Coos County Beekeepers Association that they provide some research and suggestions as to how to address their concern of overpopulation through fair and legal means.
As of right now, Oku said the group is making flyers to post throughout the county’s major road entrances in hopes of catching landowners' attention and inform them about the hives. No further regulations have taken place and discussion for a possible ordinance for next year is still ongoing.