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Since You Asked: Finding bees can be hit-or-miss

Every spring I enjoy the beauty of the blossoming plum trees in the valley, and I especially love to sniff the delicate and enchanting scent of their flowers. It has struck me this year that I have not seen one bee or other pollinator when going in for a sniff — usually one must be a little careful! So, where are all the bees and other pollinators this spring? I look forward to your fact-based answer.

— Erich, via email

During some years, there is a mismatch between when bees are ready to start foraging and when trees bloom.

In 2015 for example, the commercial pear tree bloom came about two and a half weeks ahead of normal, according to data from the Oregon State University Extension Office in Central Point.

Wild bee populations die back in winter. Many newly hatched bees weren’t old enough yet to fly and gather nectar and pollen, Sarah Red-Laird, founder and executive director of the Ashland-based Bee Girl organization, told us that year.

However, this year the pear bloom is lagging behind average bloom dates, said Rick Hilton, an entomologist and researcher based at the OSU Extension Office in Central Point.

“Right now we are behind that average somewhat — not by a lot, but a little,” Hilton said.

The average bloom date is April 2 for Anjou pears, April 6 for Bartlett pears and April 10 and 11 for Comice pears and Bosc pears, he said.

Hilton said he hasn’t heard of any problems about a lack of bees this spring.

But he noted the appearance of bees can vary based on location and tree type, such as with the plum trees you have been sniffing.

One of our reporters noticed an absence of bees at the crabapple and pear trees blooming in her yard about a month ago, but this week observed bees buzzing around flowering apple trees in a nearby park.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.