Commercially managed bee hives continue to suffer from a mysterious loss across the country, though local beekeepers say the situation in Vermont is stable.

A survey released this week by the Apiary Inspectors of America found that the nation's beekeepers lost about 32 percent of their hives since last year.

Bees play an important role in pollinating fruit trees and bushes and hive operators travel with their bees to commercial growers around the country when flowers are in bloom.

Vermont's apple trees are just starting to bloom and orchard owners are busy placing the hives out in the fields and watching the weather during the next very important few weeks.

"Bees are looking pretty good this spring. Certainly better than last spring in Vermont," said Steve Parise, an apiculturist with the Vermont Department of Agriculture. "There is no sign of Colony Collapse Disorder here and hopefully we won't see any as far as pollination goes."

In the national survey about 29 percent of the bee loses were due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a disease that causes adult bees to abandon their hives.

Scientists do not yet understand what is causing the disease and this is the second year some beekeepers have seen losses in their colonies.

"What's frightening about CCD is that it's not predictable or understood," said Dennis vanEngelsdrop, president of the Apiary Inspectors of America and a bee specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "For two years in a row we've sustained a substantial loss. Imagine if one out of every three cows or one out of every three chickens were dying. That would raise a lot of alarm."

Steve Justis, an apple specialist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture said it is impossible to know why the bees in the Northeast are doing so well, because no one really know what is causing the mysterious disease in the other parts of the country.

The coming weeks are important for commercial growers. As the fruit blossoms open bees are released across orchards.

But bees don't like to go out when it is cold and rainy and Justis said farmers need to have a good supply of healthy and willing bees to get the work done.

"This is a critical period and most of the growers have brought in their bees," Justis said. "If you don't get off to a good start at the beginning of the season, there is no way to finish so everybody is keeping their fingers crossed."

If the bees are not able to get out and work due to inclement weather it might mean a smaller crop or more misshapen apples which don't bring as great a return in the market.

At Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, the Darrow family was out Friday scattering hives throughout their fields.

Orchard co-owner Andrea Darrow said she works with two commercial beekeepers and both appear to have plenty of bees for busy season.

"They are both reporting that their hives are in good health," she said. "The apple blossoms are just out and we're hoping to get some nice days so they can go to work."

Green Mountain Orchard has about 20,000 apple trees across 125 acres, plus 15 acres of blueberries, so there are plenty of flowers to pollinate in the next few weeks.

The commercial beekeepers provide mostly honey bees to get the work done, so more orchardists are experimenting with bumblebees, which tend to work more when the weather is bad.

Darrow said last year the bumblebees did a great job in the blueberries and the family brought back more this year to share the load with the honey bees.

"At least we know someone is out there working when it is cold," she said.