Most commercial beekeepers will tell you that beekeeping has changed dramatically in the last 30 years coinciding with the arrival of Varroa mites in the late 80’s. It seems as though things have been in a constant state of change since then as beekeepers and scientists scramble to understand the complexities of Varroa, viruses, Nosema ceranae, pesticides and how they interact with bees, both, alone and in combination. The days of setting bees down in a single location and letting them go until it was time to extract honey are far gone.
Now, commercial beekeepers start to fall behind if they are not making their rounds visiting locations and hives every two weeks. Today, commercial hives need constant attention, manipulation, and human intervention if they are to make it through a winter. Those beekeepers that are able to adapt and change with the times seem to be the most successful. That is not to say that the evolution of a beekeeper is the only factor contributing to success. As with anything, success comes to those who possess the qualities of any thriving individual…A tremendous work ethic, enthusiasm, diligence, and resourcefulness, to name just a few, are all key to a successful beekeeping operation.
As a pupil of the commercial bee breeding industry it has been an education and a work in progress to learn the cycle of Northern California bee breeding. Learning the basics was not terribly challenging but understanding the intricacies has been overwhelming. Especially since no two beekeeping operations are the same. In fact, they are as different as the beekeepers themselves. Each operation is a lucid expression of the beekeeper running the operation. This, I think, is mostly because each of the sixteen beekeepers we work with put everything they have into their operations, including their personalities.
The figure above illustrates the cycle of most Northern California Bee Breeders during winter and spring months. The graphic outlines the basics of bee breeding here in the North State. In no way does it justify the amount of work that actually goes into performing and accomplishing these tasks. It does not demonstrate the difficulties that often accompany the many responsibilities a beekeeper has to his or her bees. The logistics of moving thousands of hives, alone, is enough to make my head spin. I have an incredible amount of respect for what beekeepers do. Their work ethic and dedication is both blatant and infectious.