The Problem (Why we need more local bees)
Honey bees are so important to our food system and our way of life, but they are now facing serious threats and are dying at unprecedented rates. Currently, most beekeepers get bees by buying packages from commercial queen rearers in the warm climates of the south or California. We know that bees from the south don't survive the northern winter as well as bees that have been bred locally, but most people do not have access to locally raised bees. Beekeepers, therefore, get caught on a treadmill of purchasing bees from the south in the spring, and losing them over winter, and purchasing more bees. Package bees often don't make any honey their first year, so beekeepers lose out on the sweet rewards of their hives. We would like to increase our bee survival, providing more delicious and nutritious local honey to our area markets (and friends and relatives).
The Solution (How to make more local bees available)
One alternative to this cycle is to create a new hive out of a surviving local hive. This technique results in a 'nuc' a hive nucleus that can be used instead of a package to create a new hive. Many beekeepers have bees that survive, but are intimidated by the process of making a nuc themselves. By learning how to make nucs, beekeepers can increase the number of hives they have or replace winter losses using local bees. This not only saves them money, but it also allows for the bees to adapt to our region, and reduces the risk of importing diseases from other regions. This increases honey bee health, in turn increasing honey production.
Honey bees have a very wide range because they can adapt to local climates. This adaptation has to happen over time. When we constantly import bees from the south into our northern communities, we do not allow our honey bees the time needed to adapt to harsh winter conditions. We also risk bringing in new diseases and unfavorable genetics into our area. In fact, we regularly see the presence of diseases and pests that should not be able to survive in our region, and it is believed that they are consistently imported through package bees.
The project - Local Nuc clinics and raising local queens
In this project I will host a series of clinics to teach beekeepers how to make nucs for their own use or local sale. Each nuc will grow to become a full hive that has the potential to produce honey by the end of their first season. Each beekeeper will learn the biology and techniques for this skill, and will be provided with all of the necessary equipment, including locally made wooden equipment for the nuc and a locally raised queen. The funds for this project will support the raising of these queens and the materials to make the equipment. After learning about and practicing making nucs, beekeepers will leave the clinic with the knowledge and equipment to go home and create one for themselves. They can continue to raise bees from their own stock, rather than importing packages from out of state, and they can share this knowledge with other beekeepers. This clinic will not only provide beekeepers with valuable knowledge and skills, but it will also reduce the number of package bees imported in to the area, save beekeepers money, and increase rates of survival of honey bees in our area.
Risks and challenges
I have been beekeeping for over 20 years, and have taught beekeeping courses and clinics through many different organizations, so I am confident in my ability to create a strong and useful clinic. I have been selling bees myself in this manner for four years, so I know that the demand and the need for this service is quite high. One potential obstacle is the ability of individuals to attend the clinics at my apiary due to the more remote location, but I have set up teaching hives at various environmental learning centers and community gardens and can use bee yards of my friends and colleagues to offer clinics in more accessible locations.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)