Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Thu, Nov. 14

Collapsing colonies

The Honeyman can't make honey if the bees are gone.

"The bees are dying, and I think people are to blame," commented David Goodwin, manager at The Honeyman, a natural foods store located in Prescott and Prescott Valley. "People have the mentality that bees in the wild are bothering them, but the bees have every right to be there.

I'd like to have people think twice about extermination, pesticides and bug killers. The scarcity of bees also has to do with the hundreds of ATVs that are ruining important sites for bees."

Victor Kaur, owner of The Honeyman, said he used to have 500 hives, but his colony now numbers about 50. "There used to be a lot more regulation than there is today. People import bees and bring new diseases into the country. One might be colony collapse disorder," he said. "There has been a new strain within the last six months in Spain. Maybe that's what we have." He knows a beekeeper in Flagstaff who lost 1,200 of his 2,400 hives.

"I've lost bees and beehives ­ it only takes a year for wax moths to eat an empty hive," Kaur said. He has beehives in Black Canyon and the Verde Valley. "I move them several times a year to follow the flowers. Each hive needs at least one acre of blooming flowers. And one hive produces about 100 pounds of honey a year, although I've gotten 200. Every year is different. The humidity, the wind and the amount of rain, everything matters to the bees."

The flavors of honey Kaur sells range from very mild to one so strong that it tastes like molasses. "The most popular flavors here are Prescott Wildflower and Prescott Mesquite," he said. "Fairy Duster is another unique plant of Arizona that grows between 2,500 and 4,000 feet. People use honey for allergies ­ it helps because bee honey has pollen in it."

One of the misconceptions about bees is their sting. "Everyone is afraid of bees and think they are allergic to bee stings," Kaur said. "In one test, 95 percent of the people ended up not being allergic. I've gotten 100 stings at a time and I usually get stung 1,000 times a year."

"Bee keeping is much more labor intensive now than it was 15 years ago. It's a dying profession," he commented. "The average age of a beekeeper is 62 and there are only a couple of thousand of us left. There are only about 2.5 million hives left. I don't know anyone in Prescott who is a bee keeper. It's too much work."

Kaur stressed that people should not mess with bees and their hives. "Leave them alone," he said. "If you see a swarm, the rule of thumb is that they will be gone in two or three days. If bees approach you, the best thing to do is bend over and walk toward the nearest bushes. Why? Because bees go for the high points ­ your eyes, nose and ears. Don't wear perfume or flowery dresses. Bees don't like being fooled."

The future of the bee keeping industry in this country is still questionable and its decline won't affect just the domestic production of honey. "Without bees, all different crops would be wiped out," Kaur said. "It would even affect horses because there would be no alfalfa. No melons, cucumbers. Bees are used to pollinate everything."

All in all, Kaur considers himself lucky that his bees have been "pretty much alright." He uses no drugs or chemicals around his bees, and just lets them follow the flowers. Demand for honey remains strong in the tri-city market.

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