(One of several apple trees in full bloom on the perimeter of Maragas Vineyard — and, just as in the picture, to date there have been no sightings of any bees | Photo courtesy of Maragas Winery)
Doug Maragas, winemaker and vineyard manager at Maragas Winery in Culver, Oregon, is alarmed that for the first time since beginning their agricultural endeavor in Central Oregon, he has yet to see any bees pollinating the many flowering fruit trees at their estate vineyard.
With approximately 100 apple, pear and choke cherry trees in bloom for over the past two weeks, “It’s shocking that there are no bees buzzing about pollinating the flowers,” Maragas stated. “The beauty of the flowers and the perfume like aroma walking by the trees normally attracts so many honey bees that when you pass by, you can hear a collective hum of their beating wings.” This year it is silent.
And, having an organic farm, the many dandelions on their winery lawn is yet another attraction for bees. Maragas wonders if the cause for the absence of bees may be due to the herbicidal spraying of the surrounding farms.
He noted that last year, to control weeds during the drought where there was little incentive to work the land because of an absence of water to grow a crop, the government provided a payout to central farmers so they would have an economic stimulus to control weeds.
Even though Maragas does not use herbicides to control weeds (at Maragas it’s all done by manual pulling, hoeing and cutting), “Surrounding farmers farm conventionally and do use chemical herbicides, and herbicides have been shown to harm the bee population,” Maragas said.
Regardless, Maragas goes on to explain that although the fruit trees on their farm require insect pollinators to produce fruit, thankfully, the wine grapes are self-pollinating, coincidentally drought tolerant, and will produce fruit even with an absence of bees.
Maragas Winery is Central Oregon’s longest running winery and vineyard. Their tasting room which is located inside their winery, and opens up to a patio, lawn and vineyard overlooking Smith Rock and the Cascade Mountains. Maragas Winery is open to the public daily, except Tuesday, from 12pm to 5pm.
Let’s buzz with the blues for the bees!
Saturday May 20 from 1pm to 4pm, Live Piano Blues at Maragas Winery
There’s no cover charge, just bring your taste buds and toast the bees!