Periodically I am asked to either bring my honeybee hives to someone’s property or to find beekeepers who would be willing to bring their hives to pollinate blueberry, elderberry, or whatever crops for free. In a couple of emails, the property owners wanted to charge beekeepers rent to bring the hives to their land.
First, beekeepers have invested tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, bees, education, and time by the point they have sustainable bee colonies. Yes, beekeeping is expensive, even if you build your own hives and catch swarms.
Secondly, beekeepers that do provide pollination services charge for those services, sometimes a monthly fee or a charge per crop being pollinated. Most crops that require pollination have short windows where they need pollination services, which is why major beekeeping companies spend six months moving colonies all around the country.
In addition to the stress of moving, honeybees can get exposed to chemicals applied within a five-mile radius of where hives are located. There is no antidote to pesticide exposure. The beekeeper takes that risk when they move a colony into a new area, not the property owner.
That’s not to say there aren’t beekeepers who would be willing to bring hives onto someone’s property, but the property has to have excellent bee foraging plants to make it worthwhile, and those lands are few and far between.
The best arrangement is one where the property owner and beekeeper split the cost of the hives and bees. The beekeeper sets up the hives on the property, then at the end of the season the property owner and the beekeeper work together to extract and split the honey.
So would I bring my hives to someone’s property? Sorry, no, I like having my girls close by. I started keeping bees for pollination, it gives me a great excuse to keep planting, not that I need another reason to buy flowers on sale!
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a gardener, beekeeper, and sometimes cook. For more, visit gardeningcharlotte.com. Published by Kaleidoscope Weekly with permission. Copyright 2018, all rights reserved. This column may not be copied, published, reprinted, rewritten, or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at homesweetbees.com.