Yakima beekeeper finds that bees winter better in cold storage

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 7:58 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 21 at 8:00 PM

If anyone was going to find a way to save collapsing bee colonies, it was probably Eric Olson.
 
"He's very passionate about bees," said Washington State University Professor Steven Sheppard, as he watched Olson busily navigate a fork lift.
 
Olson is stacking his thousands of bee hives in a cold storage facility in Yakima. The last time he did this he opened them up in Spring to find the healthiest bees he has ever seen.

Olson, whose bees pollinate crops up and down the West Coast, may have found a way to avoid the collapsing bee population plaguing the world. At least that's what Professor Sheppard intends to find out. Sheppard and his team are in Yakima to study CO2 levels and other gasses that build up in the building.

Because fruit is stored here, the facility is wired to monitor CO2. Olson noticed last year the CO2 levels spiked when he was bees were stored there. He thought he had just lost his livelihood. But after he opened doors and vents to reduce the CO2, something happened. He opened the hives to find the bees were robust and ready to work.
 
The WSU team believes those gasses may actually mimic what happened in the natural hives of old formed inside caves, rocky crags and hollow trees. They have brought in their own monitors and placed throughout the hives. They will record the data as the bees reach an almost bear-like hibernation state while in the cold storage.
  
If they come out as healthy this time as they did the last two years, they'll know Olson's passion for bees may have led to a major discovery.

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