In case you missed them, two national beekeeping conferences took place last week: American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) in Reno and American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) in San Diego. Here are some key takeaways and trends we found.
Low turnout The biggest takeaway from both conferences was the surprisingly low turnout. We heard all kinds of theories, from poor weather across the country to a nasty virus going around. But even with the slow foot traffic this year, there was still plenty of business being conducted. I’ll be the first to admit that vendors love to complain even when things are just fine.
ELD There’s a lot of uncertainty about the new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule, which went into effect on December 18th. The new rule requires commercial truckers to install an ELD to track hours on the road. This change is causing uncertainty for two reasons: costs are expected to rise, and non-stop trips might be at risk. Agriculture truckers were given a 90-day waiver to comply, which covers those of us trucking bees out for almond season. But come March, you’ll need an ELD to transport hives. For beekeepers, automated trucking can’t come soon enough.
Extreme weather Another hot topic causing buzz this year was the extreme weather that devastated many apiaries in 2017. Beekeepers from Texas and Florida faced severe flooding from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, while California beekeepers battled historic wildfires and drought. Obviously we can’t control the weather, but it’s frustrating that some of the best climates to keep hives are starting to become more and more volatile.
Hives in Cape Coral, FL after Irma hit and hives near Houston after Hurricane Harvey
Technology and innovation While we were all in Reno and San Diego, the top tech companies in the world came together in Las Vegas for CES 2018. But that didn’t stop beekeeping tech companies from going all out for ABF and AHPA. It seems like each year there are more and more innovative companies popping up at beekeeping conferences to showcase their products. Competition is growing, which means faster innovation and lower prices are soon to come. It’s an exciting time for technology in beekeeping.
Theft and vandalism We’re all aware that hive theft is becoming a bigger issue these days. With almond prices at an all-time high, it makes sense that some shady beekeepers would steal hives to earn a quick and easy payday. But lately there’s been a growing threat of vandalism, and the motives are puzzling. What kind of sadistic person stumbles upon a bee yard and thinks, “hey, these would be fun to destroy!” It looks like a pair of teenagers are to blame for vandalizing 50 hives in Iowa late last year. Juvenile shenanigans might explain this instance of vandalism, but I find it hard to believe that kids are the only ones doing it.
Overwintering indoors Where to overwinter your hives has always been an important question for beekeepers. No matter which climate and region of the country you prefer, at the end of the day you’re still banking on a mild winter to hopefully avoid wild temperatures. But more and more beekeepers are shifting towards a new solution: overwintering inside giant climate-controlled warehouses normally used to store crops. Companies like Agri-Stor are making a major push, causing beekeepers to re-think how they overwinter their hives. Expect to see more of these cold-storage warehouses cropping up across the country.
Agri-Stor consultant Israel Bravo stands beside hives, hives stacked to the ceiling in Agri-Stor warehouse
There’s so much in store for the beekeeping industry in 2018. I expect to see many exciting new developments and opportunities as our industry continues to grow and adapt.