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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    Default bee pasture shortages?

    I'm a beginner and cheerfully admit to knowing nothing of any importance, But here's something I've wondered about: is there a shortage of bee pasture in some or many areas?

    Over the winter I've read a lot of books and forums and magazines, and I've learned that in certain areas, space to put out bees is fairly hard to come by. There seem to be little ongoing trade wars among large outfits over territory. But at the same time, the media tell me that bees are declining in numbers, and there are fewer colonies in the States than there used to be.

    Our place up in NY, where I hope to put a couple hives in the spring, is all woods and unimproved pasture, with all sorts of good forage plants, and it's almost 10 acres, surrounded by 30 acres of conservancy land, meadow, marsh, and woods. I'm hoping I won't be stepping on anyone's toes, because I haven't seen any bee yards anywhere near the place-- at least any visible from the roads.

    Anyway, I'm hoping folks who are in the business will be willing to comment on this. Is there a real problem with declining bee pasture acreage? Does the prevalence of corn and soybeans as cash crops put a big squeeze on beekeepers? Are there any efforts to preserve bee pasture as a national resource, or is this entirely a go-it-alone deal for the individual beekeeper?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Walker, Alabama, USA
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    868

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    I don't really know the answers to your questions. What I do know is that here in Alabama (per USDA stats) the total number of hives has declined from a high of about 17,000 to the current level of about 9,000, so I feel comfortable that there is plenty of space here for another beek or two. When I was in Florida, I did notice the start of some jostling for space around the organic operations, especially the orange groves. I had to talk long and fast and come up with a bit of a gimmick to hang onto the space I had! But I've been gone from there for 7 years now, so I have no idea what the current picture is like.

    HTH


    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    syracuse n.y.
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post

    Our place up in NY, where I hope to put a couple hives in the spring, is all woods and unimproved pasture, with all sorts of good forage plants, and it's almost 10 acres, surrounded by 30 acres of conservancy land, meadow, marsh, and woods. I'm hoping I won't be stepping on anyone's toes, because I haven't seen any bee yards anywhere near the place-- at least any visible from the roads.

    Anyway, I'm hoping folks who are in the business will be willing to comment on this. Is there a real problem with declining bee pasture acreage? Does the prevalence of corn and soybeans as cash crops put a big squeeze on beekeepers?
    In NY I think it depends on where you are, but no one should complain when you put hives on your own property. If you are on a major rd. like I am rt20, it seems that everyone drops hives all over the place, I have had real problems finding locations that don't have bee's nearby. Also since the price of milk is up, dairy farmers are expanding like crazy, so they are renting up all the overgrown fields and planting corn and soybeans, this is also cutting into the amount of hives that you can put on a spot. If you have locus or bass wood in the woods it should be a fine spot. Also most beeks hide there bees in NY, so a good way to get an idea if bees are in the area is to watch somehting blooming and see if any bees show up. good luck
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,241

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Mike: Wouldnt an increase in Dairy also mean an increase in Alfalfa acreage?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Columbia, Goochland, VA
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    88

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    It may mean an increase of Alfalfa, but what you need to keep in mind is that alfalfa is generally cut before it blooms to keep the nutritional value in the plant as feed. So in general this does not give an increase hive productivity.

  6. #6
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    Dec 2008
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    syracuse n.y.
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Mike: Wouldnt an increase in Dairy also mean an increase in Alfalfa acreage?
    Maybe some day, but when they turn the top soil, they plant corn 2-3 years, then follow it with soy beans for a number of years, then plant oats as a cover crop for the alfalfa.

    I have one yard that for the first 7 years it was always alfalfa, they cut it just as it started to bloom. One day I'm leaving the hives, and the farmer is sitting on the tractor, so I stop and ask him if he's the guy that's been cutting the hay every year just b/4 it blooms. He says yup, I tell him, you know how much honey you have been costing me all these year
    He got this real mean look on his face, and his name is big JIM for a reason. I start laughing and say that's why they tell beeks, never put your hives near good farmers. Then I gave him a ride home. Didn't work though he still cuts it b/4 it blooms. So I'm guessing that most of the land that they took out of weeds the last two years won't see alfalfa for at least three years and alot of the farmers if its rental land never put it into alfalfa. I don't expect it to stop either, the last three yards that were in WHIP's land just all went to corn, the rental for land went from something like $10-15 an acre to $70 per acre.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  7. #7
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,241

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Oh I understand.....completely. My point is that you at least have a chance with alfalfa unlike most other crops. My experience is the more fertile the soil and the growthier the alfalfa is the less chance of getting a significant flow.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    lafargeville ny usa
    Posts
    505

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    the dairy farmers grow alfalfa as a high protein forage. the protein drops and the fiber goes up before it blooms. so if it comes into bloom they are getting a much inferior crop even if the tonage is slightly higher....

  9. #9
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    I think it is commonly accepted that 10% bloom is the peak time for protein content. Of course haying conditions and decisions of when to cut to a great extent are determined by weather forecasts. My experience is that alfalfa yields nectar best when under some degree of heat stress.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    2,691

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    I believe you need water and hot days Jim.

  11. #11
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Well obviously some amount of water saturation somewhere in the soil is needed but given that alfalfa can shoot a taproot about 15' I have seen some almost inexplicable alfalfa flows. It's a bit unpredictable. We raised a fairly signifant amount of honey last year from a very sparse alfalfa bloom, often just a little tinge of purple in the low spots. The only way you really knew for sure what was going on was to open some lids.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  12. #12
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    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    1,250

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Well, I feel lucky, reading this. There are a few acres of corn for silage within a couple miles of our place, and a truck farm, but most of the country is the uncultivated remains of old farms, rocky rough pasture, and beaver wetlands. Across the road is a few hundred acres of sugarbush. We've found the foundations of an old barn, and there are lots of ancient apple trees, mostly devolved into thickets of brush. There are basswood, box elder, maple, poplar, and lots of smaller stuff like sumac, blackberries, and the sort of flowers that colonize old neglected pasture. The guy who sold us the place and who owns the conservancy land bush hogs the meadows once a year, because he's a hunter and wants to keep the open fields open.

    It should be good for the couple hives I plan to set up there. My main worry is bears. That might be silly.

  13. #13
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    Dec 2008
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    syracuse n.y.
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    I think it is commonly accepted that 10% bloom is the peak time for protein content. Of course haying conditions and decisions of when to cut to a great extent are determined by weather forecasts. My experience is that alfalfa yields nectar best when under some degree of heat stress.
    except last year we don't usually see heat stress. because of the amount of rain we get and the fact the farms rent fields all over the place, they have to start cutting before its peak time to finish each cutting b/4 it goes by, add to the fact that in a "normal" year a good farmer will get 4 cuttings, once they start they don't seem to ever stop. I do have a bad farmer near my house and these hives really do produce alot of honey since I've been here.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  14. #14
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    and a truck farm,
    you might want to check in with him, if they truck farm, they spray usually, also depending on how big they are, they also may bring in bees.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,252

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Mike: Wouldnt an increase in Dairy also mean an increase in Alfalfa acreage?
    Unfortunately in my area of NY...No. Family run dairy farms in the Champlain valley are going out of business. When the family farm fails, corporate farms take over. They take out the hedgerows and pastures, and plant corn. The land between Rouses Point to Plattsburgh used to be in dairy. Great forage and big honey crops. Then the takeover. Now the valley is a corn desert, and crops have declined. It seems the only time we have those 150 pound years now-a-days is when the Basswood yields well. I don't really see much alfalfa honey, as they cut it too soon. We used to get a decent clover flow in June, but the pastures are gone...cows live in the barn and don't go to pasture. The fields are corn, soybeans, and never-flowering alfalfa. All that equals no honey crop in what used to be my best forage.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Danbury, CT
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    2,887

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    A customer shared this picture with me last year. This was taken in Corinth Corners VT. You don't see hive densities like this in New England much anymore. The land can't support it.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    1,250

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by wildbranch2007 View Post
    you might want to check in with him, if they truck farm, they spray usually, also depending on how big they are, they also may bring in bees.
    It's a small operation that supports a roadside market, and is 4 or 5 miles away.

  18. #18
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    Dec 2012
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    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Unfortunately in my area of NY...No. Family run dairy farms in the Champlain valley are going out of business. When the family farm fails, corporate farms take over. They take out the hedgerows and pastures, and plant corn. The land between Rouses Point to Plattsburgh used to be in dairy. Great forage and big honey crops. Then the takeover. Now the valley is a corn desert, and crops have declined.
    What a shame. It makes you wonder if farming can ever be anything but an "industry" in the future. When I was up in NY land-hunting last summer, I camped out at a state park for a couple weeks. Every half-hour, day and night, a manure wagon went thundering by, from a nearby CAFO. The only good thing about the stench was that it kept the park deserted, so I had it pretty much to myself.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,386

    Default Re: bee pasture shortages?

    > is there a shortage of bee pasture in some or many areas?

    Yes, in my area. Especially with roundup ready crops. All the weeds in the fields are killed. There are few pastures being used for grazing these days. They raise corn or soybeans or alfalfa. Then they feed the alfalfa and the corn to the cattle instead of grazing them.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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