There are more hobby beekeepers in Wyoming than commercial beekeepers, which highlights an interesting trend in the future of beekeeping. According to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) registration records in 2015, Wyoming had 431 total registered beekeepers. Of those, 163 were commercial beekeepers and 268 were hobbyist beekeepers who owned 10 hives or less.
The interest in hobby beekeeping is aligned with several other lifestyle trends in the state, a press release from WDA said. Wyoming folks are becoming more interested in “home grown” products, knowing that their products have not been treated with pesticides along with a similar trend of organic preferences.
The upsurge in community farmers’ markets has further increased interest in bees, according to the press release. The goods sold at these markets often don’t get the benefit of early pollination from the commercial beekeepers’ bee force. These beekeepers are just returning to Wyoming in the early spring from California for almond pollination and their honeybees are generally in a large holding yard before being placed in their registered locations.
The press release added that another possible reason for hobby beekeeping could be that Wyoming people just like the challenge of raising honeybees, and enjoy harvesting and consuming their own honey.
The WDA apiary inspectors are in charge of enforcing the Wyoming Apiary Law. The law and regulations provide necessary information to get started on an apiary endeavor, including information about yard registration, restrictions on apiary locations, maximum number of colonies, importation of bees, combs and hives, and inspection duties of our department.
The WDA is the go-to agency for registration applications, and they have the final say in the registration process. The press release stressed the importance of registration and detailed a number of beneficial factors.
If the WDA determines that too many hobbyist apiaries are registered within close proximity of each other, they may refuse to grant any further registration. Crowding one area heightens danger of the spread of bee diseases, parasites or pests. There could be interference with the proper feeding and honey flow of established apiaries in the area as well, the press release said.
Those keeping up on bee news have heard about the significant colony losses that beekeepers have suffered over the past decade, which has brought bee health to the forefront.
Bees are vital to agriculture, the food we eat and the crops they pollinate. Often these crops need to be sprayed for pests. By knowing where the registered bee locations are in Wyoming, the WDA can provide GPS coordinates to pesticide application technicians to help minimize exposure impacts on pollinators. Communication between growers, beekeepers and pest control is key to protecting pollinators and maintaining harmony in agriculture.
Registering is the law. Those that fail to register may suffer penalties.
Along with the WDA, there are several beekeeping groups located in Wyoming to serve as reference for beginning beekeepers, including the Wyoming Beekeepers Association, the Natrona County Beekeeping Organization in Casper and the Southwest Wyoming Beekeepers, who operate the website SavetheBuzz.org.
The University of Wyoming Laramie County Extension Office is hosting the Wyoming Bee College March 19-20 at Laramie County Community College. The Wyoming Bee College is open to everyone interested in the health and welfare of pollinator insects.