Short answer ... Because we're passionate about helping bees, and we want to empower other beekeepers by sharing our experiences.
If you're interested in the long answer, and I mean really LOOONG answer (along with an explanation of why an almond grower would become a beekeeper as well as some of our thoughts on hive management) ... read on.
Why are we putting this event on? Simply, to create awareness and provide education. Honeybees were imported into North America when the Europeans immigrated hundreds of years ago. They have survived and thrived in North America until the introduction of another invasive pest, the varroa mite, some 15 years ago, and as a result ALL beekeepers have experienced failures of their hives by as much as 2/3 in any given year.
What do we do to help stem this problem? We need to educate and assist both the beekeeper and the non-beekeepers for bees to survive. I have served on several National Organizations as well as past president of a local California bee club with the intent of helping all of us do a better job of managing bees. I have known many small and large beekeepers that have procrastinated, ignored or otherwise not dealt with their bee management problems. The result of this is the failure of their hives, and the possible spreading of viruses thru a lack of mite control.
Our organization has spent millions of dollars seeking solutions to help the honey bee survive as well as alternatives to pollination of commercial crops. Pollination is a basic necessity to one out of three bites of food that we consume. We need to do it in the best way possible. We have spent 10 years on a research project that we managed in conjunction with the USDA Agricultural Research Labs in North Dakota and Utah to promote the use of Blue Orchard Bees as an alternate pollinator. In doing so, we became the preeminent knowledge source on this bee.
Yes, we do grow almonds, and as a result, decided to manage our own apiary in an effort to better understand and help our bees survive. We work with researchers throughout the world to better understand the real causes of colony collapse as well as the best possible areas to research for the greatest impact on improving bee health and survivability throughout the industry. We would rather manage the best apiary we can and be an example throughout the industry than just ignore the problem and pay someone else to do it.
We belong to the Bee Informed Partnership, an organization dedicated to understanding and educating the bee industry (large and small) on best practices and improving the health and survivability of honey bees throughout the country.
Why are we offering to help beekeepers in Napa with establishing an apiary? Primarily, we live here, and secondarily we keep reading and hearing from both experienced beekeepers and new beekeepers that they are losing their bees and don’t know why. Anyone can buy a queen and a “packet” of bees on the internet, and “do their own thing”, and probably fail, as beekeeping is as much art and science with respect to general hive management, BUT we will only sell bees to those that truly want to understand and manage their bees responsibly. Our Napa hives were wintered and conceived in the unadulterated Sierra foothills, and come with the support and education of our expert beekeepers. One cannot just ignore their bees, as they will become infested with mites, and spread viruses.
Should bees be managed and treated? We believe that the best defense against hive failure is a good strong queen bee, and good bee health throughout the year. The basis of this health is providing the best diet possible to the bees consisting of natural pollen and nectar as well as essential oils and other natural supplements. It also means sampling and managing the bees for any diseases that may be present, including the varroa mite. We do treat our bees with Oxalic Acid, a natural substance that will manage the mite within the hive.
Can genetics solve the problem? At this time, there is no proven genetic solution. We have worked with researchers and queen breeders to both improve the gene pool available in the United States, as well as select for good hygienic traits that have a high correlation with hive survival. We will continue to participate in this and other research that is promising in helping the honey bee.
We believe that we should work with sound science and as many facts as possible, and not make decisions without an open and honest discussion. We believe that we should participate in as broad of a reach as possible, such as local bee clubs affiliated with the California State Beekeepers Association, and other organizations such as Pollinator Partnership, Bee Informed, Apis M., Xerces Society, Honey Bee Health Coalition, American Honey Producers Association, and many more. We participate, serve on boards, and help fund research by many organizations.
To learn more you'll need to stop by our event, and we can discuss over a glass of wine!