- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - About 30,000 European honeybees will arrive at the Washington state Capitol next week as part of an effort to raise awareness about the decline of bee populations across the country, as well as to boost pollination of plants at the governor’s mansion and on the Capitol campus.

The Department of Enterprise Services announced in a news release Wednesday that on April 20, the Olympia Beekeepers Association will be placing the bees in two hives that will be set up on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion.

“There’s a lot of buzz about our new honeybee neighbors, and Trudi and I are looking forward to meeting them next week,” Inslee said in a statement in his which he cited pollination benefits to the plants and gardens on campus. “The hives are a great addition.”

The hives -which will be installed this week, before the arrival of the bees- will initially consist of a stand and a single large box where the queen bee will lay her eggs. Later in the spring, smaller boxes to store excess honey will be stacked on top.

Beekeepers from the association will be responsible for the care and upkeep of the hives.

Bees are critical to the food supply because about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of that pollination. Concern about bee health is growing, with federal officials considering whether to protect two species of wild bumblebees.

On Tuesday, garden care company Ortho said it would stop using a class of chemicals that is believed to harm bees. The company said it has already removed neonicotinoids from the majority of its products used to control garden pests and diseases. It plans to remove it from all the rest in two to five years.

A United Nations study released in February said that neonics and other pesticides, along with disease and declining diversity in gardens and landscapes, are among the causes of declining bee populations worldwide.

“We know a healthy bee population is a part of a healthy ecosystem, and it’s our hope these hives will bring some sweet results to our neck of the woods,” Inslee wrote.

Later in the month, different bee species will be brought to the east side of the Washington Capitol campus, set up in eight mason bee “condominiums” - eight-foot-tall cedar posts, that will have a hundred holes drilled into each one. Several thousand mason bee cocoons will be inserted into the condos.

According to the Department of Enterprise services, there are several species of mason bees, including one that is native to the coastal Pacific Northwest.

The agency cited the Olympia Beekeepers Association in noting that honeybees are non-aggressive and will usually only sting in self-defense or when protecting a hive. Mason bees also rarely sting and do not act aggressively around their nests, but unlike honeybees, they are solitary, the release said.

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