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High Season for Honeybees

Beekeeping has become a surprisingly fast growing hobby in Massachusetts, despite a time of overall lower honey production caused by new diseases affecting hive populations, and uncooperative weather. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard took a look and filed this report…

President of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association Dan Conlon has seen some funny business in the honey business this year.

Spring and early summer, as flowers bloom, are big seasons for bees. And this year, it seemed like things got off to a great start. Dan Conlon says the warmer weather of this past winter was great for bee colonies.

But when frost hit the regions’ apple blossoms in March, one of the earlier honey crops, it put a dent in the season’s early honey production, and this year, Conlon says his bee farm – or apiary – produced very little apple honey. And combined with diseases and other challenges the bees are facing in the last few years, Conlon says Massachusetts is experiencing a honey shortage.

Rick Indres is the President of the Franklin County Beekeepers Association. He helped outline some of the possible causes of a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder – where honeybee populations across the US for the past several years have been disappearing. One probably cause is a tiny parasite affecting the bees.

Indres also says that mites have been bringing apiary ailments.

And a probable third cause – dangerous new pesticides which cause neurological problems in the bees.

But despite all the challenges that bees and beekeepers are facing, beekeeping is all the buzz. According to Indres, in the past two years, Massachusetts has seen over  600 new beekeepers. And Dan Conlon says many of those are located in urban areas – possibly inspired by the explosion in beekeeping in New York City after a ban was lifted in 2010.

Currently, the interest is high – and the prices in honey are up. Conlon continues…

As for the rest of the season, it’s anybody’s guess, but for now, harvesting honey looks like a hobby that might stick around for a while.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.