The Buzz About Honey Bees

There has been a lot of buzz about honey bees in the news as many of the nation’s 2.7 million colonies have been decimated by parasites, pathogens, and climate change. While honey bees are important because they provide honey and beeswax, they are even more critical because of their role as pollinators. About two thirds of the nation’s honey bee colonies travel across the country each year, pollinating crops. It has been estimated that through pollination alone, honey bees contribute 20 billion dollars to the nation’s economy in increased crop yields.

Interestingly, the main type of honey bees that are in the United States today are not native. They were introduced in the early 1600s by European settlers. Many other species of bees, including bumble bees, are indigenous to the United States.  While these native species of bees were, and continue to be, particularly important in pollinating native crops - such as pumpkins, blueberries, and cranberries - honey bees are more efficient pollinators for many other types of fruits and vegetables, and nut crops such as almonds.

In recent years, many people who are interested in the environment and the local food movement have started raising their own honey bees. The practice of beekeeping began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa, when people began domesticating bees by maintaining hives in pottery containers. Beekeeping later became common in other parts of the world where, in addition to pottery containers, people used items such as straw baskets and hollowed out logs as hives.

On Sunday, October 13, at 2:00 pm, Bill Mares, who has been president of both the Vermont Beekeepers Association and the Eastern Apicultural Society, will be at the Woodstock History Center to present a program entitled “Bees Besieged.: A History of Beekeeping.” This program, which is sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council, is free and open to the public.

The Woodstock History Center is located at 26 Elm Street in Woodstock. For more information on this program, please visit the Woodstock History Center’s website at

Beekeeping in the 14th century

Beekeeping in the 14th century

Matthew Powers