HarBee’s goal is and always will be to connect people to food, make for a more sustainable/ regenerative beekeeping business and to do well while doing good. The issue as I have spoken about in the last two post is that I don’t think that it works in the current form. I get these waves of excitement that normally crash when I realize that there isn’t enough – demand for my idea or – supply from within myself to deliver.
In this article I will lay out a utopia scenario where I get continue on the path that I am on without a totally derailment. I will first explain how most of the honeybees are managed in the US. Move on the what the keepers of those bees are saying that they need. Lastly, I will explain how we can answer the call to help them. This is not me saying I am going to do what I say here rather it is me putting it out into the universe to invite criticism, interest, and advice as to how we can make it happen.
How Honey is Produced
In a major way the bee-keeping industry is a pollination industry this is where bees are moved onto land for a fee to the grower for the propose of pollination services. In the state of New Jersey fewer colonies are kept here for the sake of honey then for the pollination of crops, mostly for blueberries. In the state it is about a 7-million-dollar industry. Nationwide this is true with the largest market for pollination being Almonds in California.
Regardless of the crop and to generalized to a large extent a given season of a colony of bees are managed in the following way:
Since it is October, I will state the season now. This time of the year the honey crop is being processed and the bees are prepared for winter. This is done by feeding them sugars if it is suspected that they wouldn’t have enough honey stored to survive the winter. Then they are ether 1) loaded on to trucks and brought to a southern wintering ground or 2) stored in high-tech-sheds where temperature, humidity and CO2 levels are controlled in complete darkness. I don’t have experience nor have I ever spoken to a bee-keepers that do the latter management, so I will only comment further.
Hives are kept in yards for in the south where the bees enjoy a more mid-winter. In January when the days are starting to get longer, they start to grow. Now, the queen can lay as many as 1500-eggs in a single day but in the winter she might completely stop. It is her restarting of egg production that I mean they start to grow. If the bees are brought to Florida, as many are a beekeeper might even be able to split the colony, which means making one colony two with the addition of a new queen and movement of some bees.
By February colonies are large and strong ready to be shipped to California for almonds erring some extra income for the beekeeper. The bees are then shipped back to their winter home or sold.
Let’s say on the path as if they are not sold.
Back that the winter location they are them split and prepared for ether another pollination contract (ether apples or blueberries) or for honey production. My understanding lays with the movement to honey at this point not more pollination. Most of the honey that is produced is produced is the northern regains of the US which is where bees are shipped.
In their northern home honey supers are added before the dandelions bloom and the bees are ready to make honey. For the bees that are kept in the same northern location they might only being starting to build up with this dandelions nectar as they do with the HarBee hives in northern NJ. This advantage in strength is why bees are moved south for a mild winter. We don’t move hives around for anything.
Bees make honey (in the northeast) until the last of the goldenrod has flowered. Their honey is then extracted in the north and the bees are then sent south, getting a little sugar before going if they are in need.
What the keepers are saying
I gather three major take aways from my conversations with operators that loosely fit want I mention above.
- Want can be done to better manage the Varroa mite.
- They want a way to better hone their management one being: at what strength so a split me made to optimize summer survivability and honey production?
- Being want to do to resolve queen issues.
The Varroa mite is the problem facing honeybees. Something I tell people that buy bees for me in the spring to start their own beekeeping hobby is, “if you don’t say to yourself ‘Patrick talks too much about Varroa’ once or twice in my classes then I am probably not talking about Varroa enough.”
Varroa is a deer tick like pest to the honey bees. It is in all hives and it vectors virus and other ailments. Beekeeper are forced to treat with – both synthetic and organic – chemicals in or their bees will die. Most colonies are treated 3 to 4 times a year.
How we can Answer the call
Every solution about which I think includes huge assumptions. I can also only think of solutions that involve me. In a way I want to take 2 years off from the current structure of HarBee and go back to school to learn and earn some fancy degree. And like anything that would be costly. Before address the cost, I will lay out the plan.
The plan is simply a series of studies that address what beekeepers are saying in an academic fashion funded with the sale of honey.
The studies that I have in mind and for which I would like to invite criticism and advice are:
- Can we improve queen return after a swarming event with small changes
- Landmarks in the bee year, Different color hives, and spacing of hives in an apiary
- Can we move the nettle in stock improvement in the fight agents Varroa with breeding
- In the is would follow 1000 hives through a year of management advising on chemical interventions and from what hives should bees be bred. Adopting a 50-year mindset.
- This this breeding program in place can other management recommendations be made to the beekeeper?
The assumption that is made:
- There would be enough collaboration within the industry in order to run saleable experiments
- There is the money for this kind of project. Would I be able to sell enough honey to pay for something like this? Simply put I estimate the above projects would cost as much as 60 thousand dollar every year for the time that it is involved. I am going to be talking with a marketing agent about this idea. I think if I could find 10,000 people to whom I can sell 1 jar of honey I would have the project completely covered.
- Thank you for reading to the end. Leave a comment below, what do you think.
To Comment privity and or to get updates on future articles please fill out the form below.