Bees are in trouble, and in Washington, that could mean agriculture is, too.
Last year, many Washington beekeepers were relieved that they avoided a mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder that silenced hives all over the country. But this year, some beekeepers are reporting a devastating new pathogen - with no reliable cure - is killing their bees in droves.
Some beekeepers are helping to pay for a crash research program at Washington State University to figure out what is going on.
"It's a major disaster in Western Washington. We are into a huge emergency situation," said Yakima beekeeper Eric Olson, who runs the state's largest commercial pollination business.
While his hives in Central and Eastern Washington have survived, Olson said he has lost 80 percent of his Western Washington hives - more than 4,000 in all - to the new pathogen. Other commercial pollinators with bees in Western Washington were just as hard hit. "I'm scared, and I don't mind saying so," Olson said.
For the researchers at WSU, "it's a huge concern," said Kim Patten, a WSU Extension specialist in Long Beach, Pacific County.
"We are just sort of at that tipping point," he said. "It wouldn't take much for the supply and demand for [bee] colonies to wreak havoc with agriculture in the Northwest."
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