Melanie Kirby of Zia Queen Bees is speaking at the Western Apiculture Society meeting this year and she has asked that we give her a bit of a write up on what is going on in the Southern part of the state.
Would you take a few moments and give her your thoughts on how your year has been, and what the future looks like for you and your bees?
She is a great beekeeper and a wonderful person, and this is a good chance for us to show that we are NOT the red headed stepchild down here in the south. Albuquerque and Santa Fe get a lot of press, we are not chopped liver! Please take a mo and jot down your thoughts and I will forward them along. Or even better post them! Your choice.
Below is her request.
Thank you in advance!
Hi Rob- I've been asked for a small write up on NM beekeeping for this past year for the Western Apicultural Society.
I've gotten reports on how the year went from the area clubs and wanted to be sure to include so. nm. Pancho Garcia shared that he has had 3 pretty tough seasons in a row and that the drought is still affecting everything.
How has your season been and also any updates on so. nm bee club?
Well, I have had an excellent year, and have tripled in size and scope. It seems to be the never-ending nectar flow in my part of the mountains this year. Just need to get better at growing my own queens. There has been a lot more interest in bees, and we in the Sacramento Mountains are sure to be a contender in the bee world very soon. Southern NM is unique in that we have a very good combo of crops and natural forage, such as mesquite. If we can keep the real estate developers from destroying all the mesquite, we should be ok. Drought is definitely a factor, and has been for my desert hives, but haven't lost any yet. My mountain bees just keep right on plugging away. Let's hope Winter is good to us this year.
As newbees, we still have a lot to learn. Our one hive that we received in June is doing well and here in the Sacramento Mountains at 6800 feet there is still a lot of forage available in the form of mustard weed, raspberries and sunflowers. We are mostly leaving our bees alone so that we do not disturb their winter preparations but check regularly to make sure they have enough bars for comb. We are only interested in having 2 or 3 hives so feel that we are on our way.
I am returning to beekeeping in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico after a 30 year hiatus. In that time many things have changed. The friend who helped me get started in beekeeping sold his 6000 hives and has gotten out of the business. Varroa almost defeated him in the 90’s and the prospect of CCD was too much for him.
We have a small group of beekeepers that have formed a social network, and to my delight many of them are women. Thirty years ago for some reason, beekeeping was almost exclusively male. It gives me great joy to see the mentoring mentality that abounds here in New Mexico. There are 15 to 20 of us keeping bees in the area and I think the trend of the industry is toward many smaller beekeepers rather than the larger beekeepers of the past.
Although we are still in a drought cycle here in the mountains, my bees have done pretty well this year. I started with 10 hives this spring and I am going into winter with 22 that are fairly strong even after splitting them hard. Most of them are top bar hives.
Long term, bees seem to fit on our small ranch as an income stream. I hope to build up my colonies to the point that I could offer top bar nucs and queens in the Southern New Mexico area.
My concerns going forward revolve around the future of bee health. “Big Ag” seems to dictate responses from the USDA at this point regarding Colony Collapse Disorder. While many recent papers are implicating neonicotinoids and several countries have banned them, the USDA seems to disregard the research and gamble with the future of our food supply. With the recent purchase of Beeologics by Monsanto, it is not a very far stretch to think that we might see Roundup-ready honey bees in the future. They have become very good at gene splicing, and I fear that the implications are yet to be felt in our ecosystem.
Right on the money about Monsanto - I fear. My biggest goal for next year is to become self sustaining so I can run my hives with no outside assistance - queens, bees, or whatever. My other goal is to develop a local strain of queens adapted specifically to the Southern NM Mountains, based mostly on survivor stock. I have lost 3-4 hives to bears, and right now have 17 hives in operation. I hope to triple that next year if possible, and have been lining up crop-shared locations to site them and the splits I will make.
One of my other goals is to maintain the apiculture tradition we lost in High Rolls, when the Apple farming industry collapsed here back in the 1950's. The trees are pretty much still here, but the beekeeping industry died with the apple farmers. This area was very active in beekeeping about 50 years ago.