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Hosting Honeybees

Rokas Armonas, a professional SF Bay Area beekeeper ( Bay Area Bee Company ) in Vallejo, has been maintaining up to 10 (10) honeybee hives on our property, and dozens more in mid-Peninsula cities. Each hive contains a queen and honeybee colony bred for gentleness. Several other empty hives are invitations to honeybee swarms to make a new home. When occupied, such swarm hives are relocated to another client's or the beekeeper's properties ( Rokas has nearly 400 beehive colonies throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco and the North Bay ). Hives in suburban or urban yards help to combat honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder ( CCD ), do our little bit for the food supply and environment by helping to restore honeybee populations, and, among others,
  • provide greater variety of nectar and pollen to strengthen bee colonies; and,
  • reduce the chances of contagion and spreading of disease among bee populations

The honey produced is local, raw, pure, and 100% natural: Straight from the hive, no additives, no pesticides, no dilution.

The honey is rich, dense, delicious, and available for sale to our members at a discount. The proceeds from our hives are donated in full to our 501(c)3 nonprofit, Sierra Aikido, to support our community outreach programs. The honey is also sold in the SF Peninsula through, among others,

  • Hispanic, Indian, East and Southeast Asian, and Ethiopian community outlets;
  • Community-Supported Agriculture ( CSA) families; and,
  • At retail to:

    Our entire neighborhood benefits by improved yields from fruit and nut trees, vegetable and flowering plants in our respective yards. The beekeeper services and maintains the hives regularly, at least every 3 to 4 weeks during the warm, honeyflow months ( February through October ).

    Honeybees & Our Environment

    Honeybee populations have been disappearing and dying worldwide for 7 or so years, since at least 2005. The precise causes are still not known, but suspects include:
    • Climate change ( "Canary in the coal mine" );
    • Declining food variety, due to thousands upon thousands of acres of agribusiness,
    • Monoculture, such as corn, aggravated by systemic pesticides;
    • Systemic pesticides: In the European Community (EC) especially neonicotenoids have been proven to be harmful to bee populations, and have been banned in several Western European member countries.
    • Mites ( esp. the Varroa mite ), parasites or viruses;
    • Combinations of the above.

    Distributing beehives widely into residential, even urban, neighborhoods, is one small, potential step toward eventual recovery. Urban and suburban neighborhoods foster a diverse variety of flowering plants, shrubs and fruit trees, and in general tend to be freer from systemic pesticides. Dispersed bee populations improve the chances for breeding strong, healthy colonies, and making it more difficult for honeybee parasite or viral epidemics to spread.

    Healthy bee populations are critical for pollinating up to 30% of our food supply, and are key links in up to 60%. Ninety percent (90%) of the world's food supply comes from 100 crop species, and 71 of those species--Many of our vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and cattle feed --depend on bees for pollination. Mysteriously, since 2005 or so 30% of bee populations worldwide have been dying or disappearing. Hosting beehives is one way to contribute to countering or even reversing Colony Collapse Disorder ( CCD ), but bees take a lot of work to support. Some enterprising small beekeepers nationwide, including the SF Bay Area, are now providing not only guest, say 1 to 6, beehives, queens and their colonies, but also regular honey harvesting, "housekeeping" support and maintenance, in exchange for an annual fee, 80 to 90% of the bees' production, or other arrangement.

    Beehive Hosting Options

    Arrangements with professional beekeepers can be very flexible: The possibilities range from a homeowner buying, owning and managing one or multiple honeybee colonies and hives to simply hosting a beekeeper's hives. Owning hives implies servicing the colony ( care, medication, managing swarms, breeding queens, etc. ); owning, extracting and distributing 100% of the honey and other bee products. Some beekeepers also offer classes or workshops in beekeeping.

    Not wanting to become professional beekeepers, we opted for the beekeeper to retain ownership to service the hives and extract the honey. Because of local interest and demand, we purchase the entire honey production at wholesale prices in convenient 50-lb ( 5-gallon ) buckets, bottle it ourselves for local, retail distribution in partnership with Bay Area Bee Company, a cooperative, with all proceeds donated to Sierra Aikido for its community outreach programs. So far our hives have also exported about 20,000 bees for the beekeeper to seed new colonies elsewhere in the Bay Area. We also continue to look for other suitable sites ( backyards, gardens, etc. ) to place one or more hives. We plan to manage such sites jointly with the beekeeper, so that the homeowner spends minimal time or effort.

    Contact us if you want more information, or to explore hosting one or more bee colonies.

    More Information

    Besides the table of beekeepers and beekeeping suppliers, the righthand Resources and Links column on bees and beekeeping comprises:
    • Beekeeper clubs or guilds
    • Printed information, including handbooks
    • Films, available on DVD
    • Other sources ( such as, Oakland Magazine's online article, Backyard Beekeeping Gains Fans )

    Beekeepers & Beekeeping Supplies

    Specialty Vendor & URL
    Bay Area Bee(hive) Hosting Programs Bay Area Bee Company, Vallejo, CA
    GetBees.net, Novato, CA
    Golden Harvest Beekeeping , Redwood City, CA
    Beekeeping Supplies Dadant & Sons, Hamilton, IL
    Mann Lake Ltd, Hackensack, MN
    Carrier's Bee's, San Jose, CA
  • Resources & Links

    Films on DVD

    • Vanishing of the Bees - Searches for possible factors, e.g. pesticides, monoculture, parasite and other diseases, etc. contributing to bee Colony Collapse Disorder ( CCD) worldwide since 199, and in the US since 2006
    • More than Honey - Swiss examination of the beepopulation declining conditions in Switzerland, U.S., China and Australia
    • Silence of the Bees - Another exploration of possible causes, e.g. pesticides, monoculture, parasite and other diseases, etc. contributing to bee Colony Collapse Disorder ( CCD) in the US since 2006, and scientists' attempts to stop its spread
    • Bees: Tales from the Hive - NOVA overview of the nature and life cycle of bees
    • Bee Movie - Life cycle, and problems, of honeybees, but in Dutch!
    • Queen of the Sun - Describes honeybees' crucial role in the food chain & food production

    Printed Sources

    Bee Clubs & Guilds