Fewer colonies survived this winter than last, and beekeepers say bees continue to struggle because of the so-called colony collapse disorder, which is killing tens of millions of bees around the country.
This isn't just a concern for beekeepers; fruit farmers are affected as well.
May is the calm before the storm at the Organic Blueberry Ranch in Granger. There are 80 acres of blueberry plants there, and in about two months, the now quiet ranch will turn busy...very busy.
In the summer time, thousands of blueberry lovers flock to the ranch. They are looking for big, plump, sweet blueberries.
To keep the ranch buzzing with business, owner John Nelson has to bring in the bees first.
"If we don't have bees, we don't have blueberries," says Nelson. "It is that important."
Right now, each blueberry bush is covered in tiny white flowers. Each flower will eventually become a blueberry. But before that, each will need to be pollinated by a honey bee.
Nelson hires a beekeeper every year to drop off at least 40 colonies at the ranch. Those bees, while searching for nectar from each flower, will pollinate his crop.
The concern by Nelson and other fruit farmers is that bees are struggling. Scientists don't know why honey bees are dying by the millions. Scientists call it Colony Collapse Disorder in which colonies of bees are lost suddenly.
Bee losses for the 2011/2012 winter were 22% according to a survey by the USDA. This past winter, losses averaged 30.5%.
North Liberty beekeeper Dave Laney is bucking the trend, though. He barely lost any of his colonies this past winter. He says it’s because he doesn't stress his bees out by moving them.
Laney says he uses no chemicals to combat diseases, which means he depends on the bees to keep themselves healthy. And Laney says he doesn't bring in bees from outside the area.
Laney is also taking part in DriftWatch, the National Specialty Crop Site Registry. According to the DriftWatch website, it is a tool for identifying specialty crop sites and to further enhance communications between producers of specialty crops and pesticide applicators that promote awareness and stewardship activities to help prevent and manage drift effects that sometimes occur from spray operations.
For beekeepers, it basically lets corn and bean farmers know where bees are so they are careful where and when they use insecticides.
Still, there are a lot of unknowns about why bees are disappearing, and fruit farmers across the county are hoping they get some answers soon.