Just listened to this half hour Radio 4 program about the migratory American beekeepers & their bees on BBC iPlayer. Five stars! It will be available for another week.
From a natural beekeeping perspective, it’s interesting that beekeepers in the US now avoid corn and soybean growing areas, and Florida’s citrus groves. Too toxic. And with two thirds of the country’s bees concentrated in small regions for much of the year as they follow the crops, it’s a perfect way to spread pathogens rapidly. Many other snippets of interest in this fact filled half hour.
Just generally, it is full of insights into the practical problems of large scale beekeeping. A certain momentum must be maintained to keep the business economic, so the colonies can emerge from spring and immediately follow the industrial scale crops round the USA as they require pollination (the cycle is something like almond, apple, cherry, blueberry); and in between travelling perhaps 8,000 miles a year, the colonies make a bit of honey. A bit of background reading tells me the almond crop is boosted from 40 lbs/acre to 2,400 lbs/acre by this pollination, which is where the financial incentive comes from. But the “migratory” beekeepers need to keep their colonies breeding throughout winter to ensure numbers are adequate in Spring, which presumably means varroa keep breeding in active brood comb all winter.