State Encourages Hobbyists To Join Local Beekeeper Clubs
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball and state Apiculturist Paul Cappy recently encouraged new beekeepers to join one of 20 different beekeeping clubs across New York state. These clubs provide new beekeepers with ways to increase production and enable many to join the ranks as full-time beekeepers. Backyard beekeeping has exploded in recent years in New York state, with at least 1,600 new beekeepers joining the ranks of local beekeeping clubs over the last five years. In addition, most beekeeping clubs have doubled in size in New York over that same time period.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of honey bees to New York agriculture,” Ball said. “I rely on them on my own farm as do thousands of other farmers across the state. While diseases are a threat to these hard working insects, the good news is that bees are a renewable resource and the significant rise in backyard beekeepers in recent years is helping plants and honey bees to remain productive across New York.”
“Beekeeping clubs help our growing hobbyists make the most out of their hobby,” Cappy said. “The growing number of new beekeepers can gain practical experience and new knowledge about beekeeping by working with experienced hands in 20 different clubs across the state.”
In 2013, there were more than 55,500 apiaries with five or more colonies in New York that produced over 2.6 million pounds of honey. This is down from 2003, when there were 67,000 apiaries with five or more colonies producing more than 4.8 million pounds. The value of honey continues to rise. Honey was $1.36 per pound wholesale in 2003 while it was $1.99 in 2013.
Most people start the hobby of beekeeping because they want honey bees to pollinate the crops in their area. This includes flowers, vegetable gardens, apple orchards, as well as nuts and berries to feed wildlife. These new beekeepers are contributing to the environment and positively impacting the loss of honey bee colonies from Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been detrimental to the pollinators across the U.S. for a number of years.
Most commercial beekeepers start keeping colonies of bees as backyard beekeepers. This normal progression helps the state acquire permanent new beekeepers to help agriculture. The majority of beekeeper trainings that occur in clubs are done by more experienced club members. Experienced beekeeper club members act as mentors for the new beekeepers, providing the best chance for new hobbyists to be successful in keeping honey bees, the result being more permanent beekeepers in the New York honey bee industry.
Honey bees play a vital role in New York state’s agriculture economy. Each year thousands of bee colonies are used throughout the state to pollinate more than $500 million worth of agricultural crops such as fruits like apples and vegetables that include squash, cucumbers and pumpkins. And, while New York state is home to many thousands of these bee colonies, additional colonies are shipped in from other regions of the country. It is through the movement of bee colonies throughout the United States that potential problems could arise if proper monitoring and inspections are not performed by the states that have apiary inspection programs.
The Department of Agriculture and Markets – Division of Plant Industry – has broad authority to investigate and eradicate bee pests and diseases and to control the movement of bees into and out of the state. It is the division’s responsibility to ensure honey bee health through inspection and certification, as well as through education and outreach to beekeepers.
Cornell University’s Master Beekeeper website is a source of information on a wide variety bee issues.
To find a local beekeeping club, visit: www.agriculture.ny.gov/PI/Beekeeping-Club-Contacts.pdf.