Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Bee-utiful

Life is beautiful for bees at Luscher Farm which provides a haven from unfriendly bee environments all around the world
by: vern uyetake A honeybee finds a sweet spot on a daisy. The farm attracts a huge variety of bees, thanks to its wide diversity of flowers and plants.

Luscher Farm resembles a health resort for bees. For the ecology of our planet that is a very good thing.

Luscher is a feast for bees, and it is a joyful thing to watch the little guys happily humming away as they buzz over all of the flowers, fruits and plants.

This is largely due to Karen Davis, longtime Luscher Farm coordinator and also a good friend to bees. It was Davis who brought the first bees to Luscher five years ago, transporting them from her home in Lake Grove.

'I thought they needed to be at the farm,' Davis said. 'I wrapped their blocks in Saran Wrap so they wouldn't buzz around inside my car. But they woke up and they got through that Saran Wrap like a knife cutting through butter.

'Bees are so gentle I wasn't worried that they would sting me. But it was a pretty weird experience.'

Truly, Luscher turned out to be a great home for bees, although it has been a struggle.

'It's been a confusing year for them,' Davis said. 'Normally you see them in March, but we only saw a few in May. There were not so many flowers available to get nectar and pollen.

'This has not been a thriving year for them. But they're holding their own.'

The bee success story at Luscher Farm is in contrast to the bee situation in most parts of the world. Bee populations have shown a sharp decline in recent years. It was first widely reported upon in 2006, and no way has yet been found to reverse this unhappy trend. The year 2011 has been full of bad news for bees.

Dr. Jeffrey Pettis, head of the USDA bee research department, has said that the nation lost 34 percent of its managed honeybee colonies in the winter of 2010-11. The pace has been the same for the past five years. The bee crisis has been called the 'colony collapse disorder,' and if humans cannot figure out how to help their bee buddies, the loss of food will be unimaginable, much worse than from crises that get much more publicity.

The big bee drop affects apples, nuts, citrus fruit, peaches, strawberries, melons, etc. In all, about 130 million different varieties of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

'We've had wet springs. The bees are not getting food early enough,' said Juliann Hart, designer for the Backyard Bird Shop in Lake Oswego. Also, 'Bees need to stay away from pesticides because they have no immune systems.'

It was Hart who inspired Davis to take up bees as an avocation, and she does volunteer work for some big-time beekeepers. Hart likes the diversity at Luscher Farm because it is so good for bees and 'bee awareness.' She would like to see the public become more aware of the value of bees.

'I would like to see a lot more people go into having backyard bees,' Hart said. 'I wish there were more flowers on lawns. I drive by highway medians and say, 'Why can't they grow some wildflowers on our highways?'

'The more diversity the better. The life of a bee depends on how far they have to fly. They wear out their wings.'

Davis has been lucky enough to line up some bee-friendly people at Luscher. People like Eagle Scout Nate Koddell, who built an amazing 30 bee dwellings that are posted all over the farm. Another great asset is the Clematis Society, whose blooms are a constant supply of food for native bees at the farm.

If bees are to stay alive and thrive, there should be a lot more places like Luscher Farm.

Hart said, 'The production of honey has been declining since World War II. They think it's because of the increased use of pesticides.'

The battle against colony collapse disorder is gaining more and more valuable information. Increased gratitude would be another asset.

Hart said, 'When I see a kid eating honey I tell them, 'Be sure to thank those bees.''