Every beekeeper is a pimp to their ladies.. or at least we always joke about it. I mean, think about it.. these beautiful creatures are flying around pollinating and collecting nectar from wherever they can and then we come in and take a major cut. There are ways to do this that are respectful to the bees and there are ways not to — did I really just use respectful and pimp in the same line??
Come summer, Mike and I take our cut when there are enough winter stores to get them through early spring, never dipping into their winter honey. Some beekeepers let the bees build up all summer and take everything in the fall, leaving the bees to starve and die off. It doesn’t make much sense to me and sounds like horrible karma! It makes sense to them because apparently bees have become another victim of the great American way: disposable goods. They can just buy more bees in the spring, duh.
Buying bees? Yep. When bees first caught my attention, I looked into where one could get bees. I found out they come in packages — by the pound! Wildly amused by this, I accepted it and just went with it. Came April and it was time to pick up the packages and head over to one of the bee yards to set up some hives.
I still remember riding in the big bee truck with Mike hearing the hum of the 4 packages we had in the backseat. As we drove to the sound of the bees that morning I did the usual and asked about 34264 questions; first being ‘Where do these come from anyway?’ And that’s when I vowed to myself to never, ever support this horrible industry ever again. Day one of beekeeping and I was already planning for next year as if I knew what the hell I was doing..
Most commercial beekeepers have their hoes in different area codes for pollination. February marks the almond pollination out in California. This great pollination migration plays a big part of Midwestern beekeeping because it’s where all your packaged bees come from.
Bees are shipped from all over the country on semis in the cold for a few days, placed in almond groves via forklift and exploited for their services until the bloom is over. After the bloom, there is nothing left for the bees to forage for because it’s miles and miles of monoculture. Can I get a “wo0t wo0t” for commercial farming!? (Yes, that was sarcasm)
When the bloom is over these bees are taken to another yard, dumped out and started down a giant assembly line. Queens are killed, bees are dumped into 2 or 3 pound packages at random through vacuum funnels and forced into an arranged marriage. A new queen in thrown in there but in her own mini cage for her protection. For the next 2,000 miles they bond over a soup can full of some type of sugary syrup and hope they don’t die along the way. Wow, how romantic..
There you have it, long story short on where your bees come from. Mike and I talked about how we don’t want to whore our bees out or support that industry this year. What can one do to avoid that? Well, our plan was to make bees from the bees we have already. Winter wasn’t kind this year and we lost a couple more colonies than expected so we sought out ethically raised queens and bees. I struggled to accept the idea of shipping bees across the country because it strays from sustainability but you can’t have it all at once.. On the up side, we are adding more diversity to our apiaries by getting new kinds of bees.
Well, there is my opinion for the day. Looking forward to a great spring. Happy March, all! and remember: question everything!