Sub-Arctic Top-Bar-Hive Beekeeping and Natural Honeycomb Production Combined with the Introduction of New Winter Hardy Red Raspberry Cultivars
Delays in obtaining necessary materials to complete the project have delayed its completion until 2005. Further, work with top-bar beehives was not possible during the summer of 2004 because of an unforeseen shortage of honeybees from California, the source of bees each spring.
Meanwhile, excellent progress was made with the introduction of a new raspberry cultivar from the University of Saskatchewan, SK Red Mammoth. Two shipments (125 raspberry plugs) were received, with 121 planted at the project site and four planted at the Georgeson Botanical Garden. As of September 2004, 90% of the plants at the project site showed good quality while those planted at Georgeson showed especially good growth.
At the project site, annual rye grass was planted around the new raspberry plants to help increase soil organic matter and old rotting hay was used as mulch around the plants.
1. Find a way for local beekeepers to produce marketable natural honeycomb at a lower cost than with a standard beehive.
2. Introduce new, winter-hardy raspberry cultivars into interior Alaska where harsh winters frequently make raspberry production unreliable.
The use of top-bar hives in 2002 and 2004 indicates management problems with such hives in Alaska. Commercial viability or marketable natural honeycomb has yet to be demonstrated. The top-bar hives may cheaper to set up and operate in interior Alaska for individuals interested only in home production. The project coordinator planned to experiment in 2005 to see about producing a marketable honeycomb.
Meanwhile, the raspberry cultivar, SK Red Mammoth, grew very well during their first summer in interior Alaska.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The impact of top-bar-beekeeping is likely to be minimal. The difficulties of managing the delicate natural honeycomb without damage limit its marketability. If honeycomb is produced successfully in an easily marketed form, it will likely be in traditional honeycomb formats like Ross Rounds. Beekeepers who wish to produce honey for themselves and their families at a low coast may find top-bar beekeeping attractive.
The benefits of the winter-hardy raspberry cultivare, able to produce raspberries regularly even after a severe winter, would be a great benefit to local berry growers. The locally developed Kiska cultivar is currently the only one able to withstand interior Alaska’s severe winters, but the berries are small.
University of Alaska Cooperative Extension
Fairbanks, AK 99775
Office Phone: 9074742423
Georgeson Botanical Garden
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Office Phone: 9074745651