Areas that conform to National Organic Program standards for locating beehives were identified using GIS land-use data. One plot was selected for organic bee production, and GIS data were used to determine if adequate bee forage zones existed nearby.
A market survey indicated strong consumer interest in organically certified honey and a willingness to pay higher prices for the product.
The Kenyan Top-bar Hive produced yields lower than Langstroth hives and need more labor input; however, they were cheaper to manufacture and can be built from common recycled material. Organic practices are possible using the Kenyan Top-bar Hive.
1) Demonstrate the feasibility of producing organic honey in Colorado.
2) Determine the commercial viability of organic honey in the marketplace.
3) Test the appropriateness of the Kenyan Top-bar Hive for organic honey production.
The two basic problems in working with the National Organic Standard for honey are finding bee yard locations that meet the requirements for organic bee forage areas and obtaining a source of organically produced beeswax to make the foundation or to coat a plastic foundation.
This project addressed these problems and others with some success. We produced a map to locate suitable areas for organic beekeeping using county GIS land-use data. Honey production was lower than in Langstroth hives, but Kenyan Top-bar Hives were inexpensive to construct (less than $20 compared to more than $60 for Langstroth hives).
One significant result from use of the Kenyan Top-bar Hive was its superior output of organic beeswax by-product. This organic wax production is the raw material sought after to meet the organic wax foundation requirement to establish transitional organic beehives.
New organic technologies worked well in the Kenyan Top-bar Hive management. Drone brood cutting on the free-hanging combs and screened bottoms eliminated substantial numbers of pests. Organic pest management is more labor intensive, requiring 10 or more seasonal operations versus what would be only two to four operations using synthetic pesticides.
IMPACTS ON AGRICULTURE
A premium in the sales price for organically certified honey is a significant incentive for honey producers. Sixty-seven percent of survey responders are willing to pay more for organic honey. A 50% increase in sales price equates to an average increase in profit of $90 per Langstroth hive or $18 for the average Kenyan Top-bar Hive.
No producers are known to have adopted the Kenyan Top-bar Hive, though some using Langstroth equipment are getting organically certified. Personal interviews show strong resistance to adopt this hive change.
REACTIONS FROM PRODUCERS
Local beekeepers were skeptical of the feasibility of commercial honey production using organic methods, and even more so of using Kenyan Top-bar Hives. It seems their resistance is due to discomfort of new technologies and a fear of losses to pests (primarily the Varroa mite).
RECOMMENDATION OR NEW HYPOTHESIS
We recommend research be conducted in developing a systematic GIS national database of organically certified farms. This will be useful for quantifying land use zones appropriate for the location of organically managed beehives.
We also suggest a study might be useful for investigating the economics of producing organic beeswax, organic wax foundation and organic bee stocks for population increase to be used by the increasing number of organic honey producers.
A study would be useful to develop an organic beekeeping handbook or other publications to share technical knowledge and better educate new and veteran beekeepers.
An article has been prepared for submission to local newspapers and magazines of interest to beekeepers and honey consumers. One potential publisher is The Colorado Gardener.
A presentation to the Colorado Beekeepers Association annual meeting has been prepared.