host a hive
bees without the responsibility

maybe you've heard the fantastical news stories about the dire honey bee situation we find ourselves in. and maybe you want to do something to help. you've already lobbied your local, state, and national representatives to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. you've put up a sign shaped like a ladybug indicating that you don't spray your garden. you've planted a whole bunch of borage and dill. you would even go so far as to start keeping bees if it weren't so time consuming and daunting.

or maybe you could really use some pollination and honey and wax and propolis, but you're not interested in handling bees yourself.

or maybe you just want to be the cool kid on the block with the wicked rad beehive, but you're very busy doing other cool kid on the block stuff.

fear not! there is a solution!

it is quite possible to keep too many hives in one spot. it's no good for the bees because they run short of nectar and pollen and share pathogens and parasites. it's no good for beekeepers because they won't provide any honey. for these reasons, we're always on the lookout for more suitable places to set up our beehives. maybe you've got a suitable place?

the deal:

the first step is to determine if you've got a good spot. if you're interested, we'll talk more specifically about this stuff, but here are the main ideas:

-you're permanent. it can take a good couple of years for a hive to get going. once they're established, moving them is a pretty serious undertaking. which is to say, we don't want to move them. so if you're planning to move on within the next five years, we would still be very interested in putting up bait hives, but a permanent hive probably isn't a good idea.

-you don't use pesticides. a no-brainer, right? well, you might be surprised. if you use any sort of pesticide out of doors, we're not going to try to talk you out of it, but we're also not interested in putting a valuable colony and hive at your place.

-you don't live right next to somebody who uses pesticides. this can include spray-happy neighbors or conventional agriculture operations. again, nothing personal, but we can't afford that risk.

-there isn't a big apiary in the general vicinity. we're looking to not overpopulate a place with bees, remember? a couple of other hives in the neighborhood isn't a big deal. that would actually make the bait hives more likely to successfully lure a swarm, and most densely populated places have a pretty reliable nectar supply. if you're right next to a farm with a whole bunch of beehives, though, or your next door neighbor has ten hives in the back yard, we'll probably pass.

-you're close to us. we're in Woodland, Wash., the best place on earth. if you're within 20 miles of here, we could almost certainly work something out. if you're between 20 and 50 miles from here, it could work out, but we're not making any promises. if you're further than 50 miles from here, it would need to be a pretty special situation. examples that would increase your odds: a really productive or unique nectar source, or if you could host multiple hives. do keep in mind that honey bees can thrive in rural, suburban, and urban areas, so don't let the proximity of your neighbors hold you back.

if none of those rule you out, the next step is you give us $50. that covers some of the cost of materials to build a bait hive or two and a permanent hive.

$50?! for somebody else to put a hive on your property?! yeah. $50. keep in mind that the going rate for pollination services is well above $100/hive, and those bees only stay there for a couple of weeks. you'll be getting the bees indefinitely. and you're going to get some honey out of the deal.

which brings us to the honey you get out of the deal. almost. first we'll talk and wander around your place and decide on a suitable place to put up a bait hive or several. then we'll wait. after a while (maybe a day, maybe three months), a swarm will move into one of those bait hives, or to a bait hive somewhere else, or we'll get a swarm call. at that point, we'll move the bees into a permanent hive. then more waiting.

it will take at least a year and a couple of months for the bees to get established and provide some surplus honey. more likely, it will be over two years, depending on weather and local forage. but once the hive is ready for harvest, you'll get 10% of everything that comes out of it every year. that's 10% of the honey (obviously), but also 10% of the wax and propolis. might not sound like much, but 10% could easily be 10 pounds of honey or more each year. I've never seen local honey go for less than $5/lb in these parts, and it's usually at least $8. and that's just local honey. there's no guarantee the beekeeper hasn't used various dubious chemicals in the hives that might make their way into the honey. we don't go in for any of that nonsense. to me, $50 once seems like a pretty good deal for a pretty substantial amount of good, clean honey every year in perpetuity. and if you want more than 10%, we'll sell you any amount of our 90% for a good discount off of retail price. we'll also consider trades.

because you'll be getting a share of the hive products, it might behoove you to do what you can to make the bees more comfortable. planting a whole bunch of great flowering plants is a pretty good place to start (and end, for that matter). a suitable water source would be helpful if there isn't already one around. we would be happy to talk with you about what we recommend and what we like to plant. you're certainly not obligated to plant bee forage, by the way, because honey bees will cover a pretty wide area to find what they need. usually upwards of 1700 acres and 60,000 acres isn't out of the question. if you own 60,000 acres and want to host some hives, do contact us right away.

is there any catch? not really. the hive will always belong to us, unless you make a really persuasive offer to buy us out, so we'll reserve the right to remove it at any time for any reason. once occupied, though, these things are not easy to move, so if we do decide to move one off of your place, we've probably got a pretty good reason.

if this sounds like something you might be interested in, give a call (360-389-3478) or send an electronic mail (tel@pikkufarm.org) or drop by to talk to tel at the Woodland Farmers Market when it's open.

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