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One hive at a time: Beekeepers struggle to grow colonies after harsh winters

Beekeepers struggle to grow their bee colonies after harsh winters killed dozens of hives.

Honeybees work hard to deliver us delicious honey.

But in Virginia and Tennessee, bees struggle to keep their hives alive during the winter.

Phil Blevins, a Highland Beekeeper Association advisor said last winter killed almost half the population in Virginia.

"Last winter we had some huge bee losses and it's probably a combination of things that affect that depending upon who the bee keeper was. We had an extreme cold spell for about two weeks; not uncommon for this area."

Virginia Agriculture officials announced honeybee colonies have decreased an average of 30 percent per year in the last decade.

This year they lost almost 60 percent.

"People need to be paying attention and actually make sure that they are putting stores up for the winter,” said Blevins. “Make sure they not get too greedy and rob too much from them."

Tennessee also lost more than 70 percent this year.

One local beekeeper has never seen such a big loss.

"In the past, I had a 40 percent bee loss but never a major bee loss like this," said Bob Wiggins.

Wiggins is a local beekeeper in Tennessee.

He has been interested in bees for as long as he can remember.

"I've been fascinated by bees all my life. When I was a little fella my next-door neighbor had bees and I was fascinated by them," said Wiggins.

After retiring from his naval career, Wiggins spent several years working on his bees.

But this winter has left him with only one hive.

"Since then, I had to go out and purchase more bees to work with my bees to build them back up," said Wiggins.

Wiggins creates his own honey using his own beehives. Starting at only one hive this season, he now has 13.

"This year we will not have the amount of honey we had in the past,” said Wiggins. “Because of the amount of bee hives I'm down to."

He is determined to grow his colony by adding more bees to his already sustained hive.

He also is working to conserve the honey.

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