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Two companies pitch in to help Sebastopol organic farmers set up their own hives

It's hard out there for a honeybee.

And for farmers like Sebastopol's Torrey Olson, who relies on the declining worker colonies to pollinate his pear and apple crops.

Olson's been leasing and borrowing honeybees for eight years since he and his wife, Lucy, bought the 14-acre Gabriel Farm on Sullivan Road.

No more. On Monday, he received a special gift from a client, the San Francisco-based The FruitGuys: four hives with 40,000 honeybees.

"I think we'll put them right here," Olson said, pointing to a patch of grass near solar panels that power his home and organic farm.

"They need to sit in the sun for the warmth and also so they know when to wake up and get to work," he said.

Olson has learned, sometimes the hard way, there's a distinct culture to the honeybee world.

They work hard and mostly ignore humans. Worker bees literally work themselves to death carrying nectar for honey and pollen to feed bee larvae while the drone bees mate and the queen bees lay eggs.

They also hate the cold and crammed quarters, which Olson realized after a loaner colony formed a "a giant cloud of hissing, angry bees," irritated that their hive was crowded.

And they're sensitive. Millions of colonies have died, in part, because of declining habitats and diversity, chemicals on crops, and forced travel by beekeepers who truck loaner hives from farm to farm.


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