Author: Pat Bono
“ The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” - Mark Twain
Many New York beekeepers are all set for pollination and honey production, despite recent headline news warning of a honey bee “apocalypse”. While weather, location, and disease can cause variation in winter survival of bees, overall, local beekeepers are reporting a better than average population of honeybees here in NY. This is good news for both orchardists and new beekeepers, because many of the larger beekeeping operations provide pollination services and sell honeybees and queens locally. Even colonies that are overwintered in the southern states, such as the Carolinas, are in good health and will be migrating to orchards across the Empire State within the next few weeks.
Indeed, the more populous hives are ready to expand and swarm--- this also includes feral bees: honeybees that have taken up residence in hollow trees or abandoned structures. Most NY bee clubs and County Cooperative Extensions have lists of beekeepers eagerly awaiting calls to retrieve the wayward bees. See ESHPA.org for a list of bee clubs.
Interest in beekeeping is at an all time high, with many new beekeepers setting up their first hives this Spring; but while anticipating the sweet liquid harvest, honeybee health should be primary. The biggest threat to honeybees is a parasite, the varroa mite, which saps the bees' strength and transmits viruses--- similar to a tick. Consensus is for beekeepers keep track of the mite numbers, perhaps medicate if really needed, to keep their bees in top form. A quick and easy way for beekeepers to check for these bee killers is on the NYBeeWellness.org site, a website developed for NY beekeepers, which is funded by the USDA and the Empire State Honey Producers Association. It includes a video.
The typical beekeeper of today has several beehives in their backyard, providing pollination to flowers within a 2 mile radius. This contributes to the diversity of both wild and cultivated flora here in New York. With good, responsible beekeeping, everyone can share in the benefits of the flowers and the bees.
New York State has had a longstanding legacy in apiculture and honey production since the early 1800's, due to the variety of flowering plants that flourish in the rich agricultural soils. According to the 2012 USDA Honey Report:
- the number of reported beehives in New York increased by 6% to 52,000
- the value of the NY honey crop increased by 13% to over 6 million dollars
- New York currently ranks #14 in the nation for honey production
NY Bee Wellness Workshops, NYBeeWellness.org, USDA NIFA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, Grant # 2011-494400-30631
-----Pat Bono, Rochester NY, is the Project Director for the NY Bee Wellness Workshops,Contact: Pat@nybeewellness.org