Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beekeeping Can Benefit Crops and Farm's Bottom Line

Nearly one-third of America's food supply is dependent on honeybee pollination. In fact, the overall success of most farm crops (not counting grass or corn) is dependent on bees.

For example, soybeans derive a five to 10 percent increase from bee pollination. Cucumbers, melons, berries, apples and most fruit crops are totally dependent on bee pollination.

Honeybees even pollinate 50 percent of our alfalfa seed crop. Since dairy cows eat alfalfa hay in large quantities, it means our milk supply is partly dependent on honeybee pollination.

"We grow many fruits and vegetables for which the honey bee is a native pollinator," said Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Unfortunately, the number of bee colonies, and the number of beekeepers, has dropped during the past several years. As a result, the price of renting bee colonies for pollination has doubled.

"There is a shortage of bees and beekeepers throughout the United States. We can import honey, but we cannot import pollination," said Byers.

Getting started in beekeeping is fairly easy. In most of the state, a person can keep about 25 colonies of bees in one location. A single colony will produce 100 pounds of honey per year, which sells for $1.50 per pound wholesale.

Many hobby beekeepers can keep 40 hives in two locations (must be at least 1.5 miles apart), or 100 hives in four locations and make extra money.

Residents inside the city of Springfield are reminded that the city has an agricultural ordinance that requires residents have at least 10 acres of land to be able to have bees.

“That same ordinance was recently changed to allow the raising of some backyard chickens,” said Byers. “It would not be practical to keep bees unless you had at least 10 acres. You would never get enough honey to make it worthwhile if live in an urban area.”

The Missouri Beekeeping Association has a listing of local beekeeping clubs if you’re thinking about keeping bees.  That’s a good place to begin learning.
(by David Burton, MU Extension)

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