Migrating Bees

The annual bee migration from the major honey producing areas is the Dakotas, to the almonds fields in California, has begun. A few semi-loads of bees dribble through Casper, Wy in the previous weeks. But almost half the semis coming through here are now carrying bees. I’ll bet almost every hive in the Dakotas goes through Casper. And that’s a lot of hives.

It seems that there are generally fewer hives on each semi. Maybe the hives are heavier and healthier. I hope that’s the case.

The Vagabond

When the migration starts, I have mixed emotions. Part of me would just jump at the chance to throw down my current lifestyle and head west with the bees. Much of my energy and youth were spent in commercial beekeeping. But I’m older now and also glad that I don’t have to do it.

The People

I look at the drivers to see if they are awake? Are they beekeeper’s driving their outfits west? Or are they commercial truckers thankful for an unusual load. The people part of beekeeping is one of the most fascinating aspects for me.

Disease

And recently my thoughts have turned to the distribution of diseases and pests. These bee outfits migrate out and back every year. Their bees congregate in the biggest beeyard in the world. Pick up every known and unknown pest. And then bring them back to every corner of this nation.

I think of the malady my bees are now battling. And the disappearance of the wild bee population. Coincidence? Migrated tragedy?

I remember unloading one semi-load of bees dropped back in Wyoming. It initially looked like oil had been spilled down the entire length of the flatbed.  But a close inspection revealed not oil, but fire ants! They were living between and below most hives. And they didn’t like migrating much. Ouch!

But no problem. California doesn’t much mind if every resident fire ant is hauled out of the state. 😉

Law

And no one in Wyoming knows any better or cares. The bee laws in Wyoming, like many states, were enacted to protect established beekeeper’s turf. Bee disease prevention was the guise under which they were passed into law. It’s ironic to think that the people who promoted the bee laws “to prevent the spread of bee disease”, are now themselves probably the major vector for spreading bee disease.

The Road

Anyway, they’re on the move again. Some tired beekeepers. Some soon to be tired truck drivers. And bazillions of bees all trying to get to California without incident. I wish them well.

-bW

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2 responses to “Migrating Bees”

  1. Carlos R. Cedeno says:

    Hi Dennis,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. It’s easy to see how much of your life has been involved with the bees. I can see how easily one can spend a lifetime with them.
    Recently I read where some are thnking part of the bees commercial bees problems are rooted in their spending so much time working a few crops they don’t get proper nutrition, add in stress from the way they are handled and kept moving it makes sense, but then again we are not bees.
    Have you heard about the studies in Montana on CCD?

    Thanks and take care

    Carlos

  2. Doug says:

    Cattle, hogs, chickens, turkeys, and bees. They are all a cash commodity. As long as there is a buck to be made, people will push them like crazy.
    I’m glad I got into bees at a later age. Had I done it when I was younger, and had the energy, I probably would have migrated too. As it is, I’ll never get over a hundred hives and my bees will always have a variety of nutritional forage to keep them healthy.
    That was one of my first revelations concerning bees, a variety of forage food. Heck, how would you feel if you only ate chicken hot dogs (without a bun) for a full year, and drank only diet soda to wash it down? You would surely collapse…sooner than later.
    I’m in it for the bees. Anything they can give me above what they don’t need, I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I am totally commited to that. Besides, I don’t need honey money to survive. There is one lady that ownes a health food store here, that keeps asking me to sell her raw honey. Every time I tell her no, she looks at me like I’m a noncapitalist pig, shakes her head, and storms off! I have a small clientele that pays me well for a premium product. If the bees need it more, the people do without. Simple as that. Now for a large beekeeper, that sounds insane. To me, killing all your bees and replacing them every year sounds insane. It’s just the way I do it, and it works for me. I think my bees would agree since they are all fat and sassy.

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