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Beekeeping at the base of forestry

H C Short apiary in Fitzpatrick, Alabama.

Forestry is a huge part of Alabama’s economy and occupies 23.1 million acres of the state. Forestry also often co-exists with agriculture and tourism throughout the state. Agroforestry, silvopasture, and fishing/hunting areas all bring in extra income and help drive local economies. Another idea that forest land owners can adopt to glean more dollars per acre is beekeeping.

Beekeeping 

Honeybees are incredibly important to agricultural systems the world over. They naturally dwell in forests, making many forestry projects an ideal circumstance for honeybees and beekeeping. Typical agroforestry and silvopasture forestry projects could easily be maintained for pollinators. Hunting preserves in forestry projects already do this with food plots.  

Like forestry work, honey bees require only intermittent care to insure health. The forest ecosystem also makes certain aspects of beekeeping easy. The hives would be in rural areas where theft or vandalism is unlikely, which is unfortunately a common problem. Isolation from other apiaries (a place where bees are kept) will assist in parasite and disease issues, which are more problematic in areas with more honeybees per acre.

Honey 

Pouring honey into a bowlThe main money making prospect of beekeeping in forest projects is honey, particularly varietal honey. The nectar that honeybees collect gives flavor and aroma to the final product. Varietal honey are honeys that are mostly made from the nectars of specific plants. 

Tupelo, sourwood, and linden honeys are common varietals that are more valuable per pound than other honeys. They are used for eating, brewing, and cooking unique products. Forestry plantations are in a unique position, because of the control of their ecosystems, to make these varietal honeys easier to produce. This is particularly true of riparian buffer zones where particular species may be planted and maintained, even after harvest of the plantation.

Bees 

Beekeeping is big business. Bees themselves are almost always in short supply. Because of the large acreage required with forestry projects, they potentially offer the kind of isolation that maintaining specific breeds of honeybees require. These bees are generally sold as queens, packaged bees, and nucs or nucleus hives. Prices often range on this kind of livestock.

  • Queens, mated or virgin – $40 to $50
  • Packaged bees, 4 pounds of workers with a queen – $100 to $200
  • Nucleus hives, a small working bee colony with its own queen, workers, and brood – $125 to $200

More Information 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System beekeeping team features the Stay at Home Beekeeping Series, a biweekly online webinar. More information on this series is available on the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu. More information on pollinators is also available on the Extension website pollinators page

The Annual Beekeepers’ Symposium is a great yearly gathering on the first Saturday in February. It is comprehensive, teaching both basic beekeeping as well as new information and innovation. The symposium also features beekeeping supply and equipment vendors from across the country.

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