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Bees at Vermont Beekeepers Association workshop. Photo: Meghan Dewald

Honeybees are valuable to Vermont agriculture for two main reasons: They are important pollinators for crops (e.g., forage crops, apples), and they produce honey, a natural sweetener used in many food and nonfood products. With a market value estimated at $575,000 in 2010 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the economic contribution of honey production in Vermont is a small component of the value of the state’s total food system. However, this figure misses small-scale honey production and value-added products (e.g., candles), and undercounts the essentially free ecosystem services provided by domesticated exotic honey bees and native bees for agricultural crops, gardens, and wildlife habitats.

Vermont has about 1,800 registered beekeepers, but state apiculturalist Stephen Parise at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) estimates the actual number to be between 2,000-2,500. Several commercial beekeepers and apiaries operate in Vermont (e.g., Champlain Valley Apiaries in Middlebury, in operation for 80 years), but most beekeepers do it for “love and honey,” according to the Vermont Beekeepers Association (VBA). There are approximately 400 VBA members, ranging from commercial producers to hobby beekeepers.

Vermont produced 260,000 pounds of honey in 2010 (about 0.15% of U.S. production), up from 245,000 pounds in 2009, but down from a historic record high of 623,000 pounds in 2002-2003. NASS indicates that the number of honey-producing colonies in Vermont decreased from 5,000 to 4,000 from 2009 to 2010 (4,000 colonies is one of the lowest per-state totals). VBA reports that Vermont has 9,000 colonies that produce about 700,000 pounds of honey per year.



Resources

Dan and Marda’s daughter, Abby, with beehives.
Photo: Vermont's Local Banquet.

Planet Pollinators

Written by Dan Childs and Marda Donner Read more in Vermont's Local Banquet Spring 2014 issue. As I look out my window in early January at my beehives, I’m in awe of how bees do what they do. The temperature is well below zero, the wind is blowing, and snow is falling. Yet…

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