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Count your bees, Vail Valley

Alexandra Navas
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Everyone knows the familiar buzz. It heralds the arrival of summer and the blossoming of the flowers. It means the bees have come again.

The little insects are critical to the Vail Valley. Today Dr. Michael Breed, a professor in the ecology and evolutionary biology department at the University of Colorado and the unofficial “bee guy” of Colorado, will speak about the importance of the pollinators to the local ecosystem. He will also speak about the decline of bee populations across the country.

The reasons for the decline are unclear. What is clear is the vital role bees play in sustaining local flora. Without honeybees acting as pollinators, the meadows of the Valley would be vastly different places. It’s no wonder that the bee disappearances have many specialists worried.

“It’s a really critical topic,” said Laurel Potts, the horticulture specialist for Eagle County Colorado State University cooperative extension.

Bob Hammon, a CSU extension agent, doesn’t think Western Colorado bees have anything to worry about. The bee populations he’s observed are vibrant and thriving. Still, bee education is very important, he said.

“The time to get involved with bee populations is when the population is healthy … If we start our conservation now with healthy populations, we can keep them healthy.”

Dr. Breed’s main message will emphasize the connection between the bees and our food supply, most of which comes from pollination. He will also address topics such as bee diversity and the different adaptations each bee species uses to live in widely varying climates.

The Gore Range Natural Science School invited Breed to speak as part of the school’s summer adult program series. Ann Stevenson, the community programs director, hopes that the lecture will teach people that these animals, though small, cannot be taken for granted.

“They’re creatures that are so important to our livelihood that we don’t always consider,” Stevenson said.

Breed will speak in the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens from 9 a.m. to noon today. The $35 cost includes a lecture followed by a scenic walk through the gardens where the bees can be seen in their natural habitat. An educational opportunity, it gives visitors a chance to keep the familiar buzz alive. Education is critical to conservation, Hammon said.

“The more people who can learn about bees, the better off we’ll all be,” she said.

If you’d like to sign up for the program, call the science school at 970-827-9725 ext. 10 or join the program near the Museum at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.


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