An advisory panel of beekeepers, a university researcher and an orchardist has been formed to recommend research needed by Washington state's bee industry and enhance communications with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

The department created the committee at the request of industry as a way to obtain advice on issues affecting the apiary industry, including hobby beekeepers. The committee will suggest research projects that strengthen the apiary industry in Washington.

"Bees provide an indispensable service to farmers in pollinating their crops in addition to producing honey," says WSDA director Valoria Loveland. "This panel will alert WSDA to problems and opportunities where industry and regulatory officials can work together to keep the

bee industry viable."

Loveland appointed nine persons to the panel for two-year terms ending in July 2009. The panel includes:

♦ Jerome Tate, Tate's Honey Farm, Spokane. Tate is president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association.

♦ Eric Olson, Olson's Honey, Yakima. Olson is vice president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association.

♦ Carolyn Elliott, Trees 'n Bees, Auburn.

♦ James K. Smith, Bonney Lake.

♦ Tim Hiatt, Hiatt Honey LLC, Ephrata.

♦ Paul Hosticka, Octopus Garden Honey, Dayton.

♦ Stanley Pallo, Stan Pallo Bee Yards, Startup.

♦ Hermann Thoennissen, Kennewick. An orchardist, Thoennissen represents the interests of growers who purchase pollination services.

♦ Steve Sheppard, an entomologist with Washington State University in Pullman.

The group will meet with department officials as needed, with the first meeting scheduled for August.

The committee is expected to advise the department on the type of research that would benefit their industry. Research would be conducted by academic institutions or other organizations.

Funding would come from fees that more than 270 beekeepers pay each year to register their hives with the state.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, honey bees are essential for production of more than 90 food crops. In addition, honey bees contribute to the pollination of many plant species across the state-benefiting landscapes, gardens, and vegetable plots.

Washington's beekeepers provide pollination services ranging from tree fruit orchards

in eastern Washington to blueberry and cranberry crops west of the Cascades. Industry leaders also transport their hives to serve growers in California, Arizona and other states.