|By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, October 01, 2003 - 2:12 am: Edit Post|
India RPCV Bob Stevens is honey grower
India RPCV Bob Stevens is honey grower
Honey supply dip spells sweet success for some
JEROME BURDI , The Saratogian 09/30/2003
Business Q&A Sept. 30, 2003
Address: 8 Meader Road, Greenwich
- How is the American honey market? It's as strong as we would like to have it. Prices have gone up and affected the industrial use of honey products.
- What do you attribute that to? We got a tariff against the Argentinian and Chinese dumping honey into this country. Chinese ship their honey to Europe instead because of the tariff. The Europeans do a lot more testing on food products than in this country. They found illegal antibiotics in Chinese honey. So that more or less stopped all Chinese honey from coming into this country. As a consequence, the wholesale prices almost tripled.
- Why would it triple? Supply and demand -- there isn't enough supply of honey.
- So Americans can't produce as much as they'd like? Honey production in this country is down for other reasons. We have a mite that came from Southeast Asia that has devastated the bees for 10 years now.
- Is Argentinian honey still on the market? Argentinian honey is still on the market, and they're trying to expand their production.
- How has the price increase impacted you directly? We're the northeast center for people. Beekeepers come here to buy the things they need in order to raise bees. They're getting more money for their honey and trying to find more ways to expand and buying more equipment. We do have our own hives; we are honey producers also. We have about 500 hives. That's only about 5 percent of our business; 95 percent of our business is beekeepers coming from around the United States buying hives, bottles and clothing.
The other thing is there seems to be a resurgence of interest in beekeeping as a hobby. It goes opposite the economy. The economy slows down and people raise vegetables and do other things they don't do when the economy's growing very rapidly.
- Does it take a certain type of person to get into beekeeping? They come in all types. We teach classes in the spring for free.
- How much does it cost to start up a beehive? About $300.
- Is there a signature to American honey? The honey from this area tends to be a mixed wildflower honey. It comes from many different flowers. In areas like Argentina, they have all alfalfa or all clover; you get one variety of honey.
- What's the outcome of that? Ours tastes better (laughs). It's a richer taste.
- What's a day in the life of a beekeeper? Beekeeping is very seasonal. Work months are April and May. Those days, you inspect the hives, take the bees out and check for disease, check to see that they have enough food, make sure their queens are good. The queen's very important. She runs the whole hive. All the work for production's done in the spring. It's a very intensive period. The other intensive period is the harvest, which is September and October.
- Do the bees have any use for the honey? They live on the honey. They need about 70 or 80 pounds to get through the winter. You can only bottle so much. During the winter, there are about 40,000 bees in one hive.
- How long do bees generally live? The ones born now will live through the winter. But in summer, they basically work themselves to death in about six weeks.
- How long does the queen live? Two or three years -- she's one of the most incredible phenomenons in nature. She can lay as many eggs in one day as she weighs. The hive is a totally communist society run by women -- everything for the good of the hive.
- How did you get into this line of work? I was in the Peace Corps in India in the '60s, and I saw some beehives in the mango trees. When I came home, I started keeping them in a local garden for our own use, and it gradually expanded.
Betterbee started 25 years ago, and we mail out 50,000 catalogues a year. About 20 percent of our business is walk-in.
- Ever been stung? Oh yeah. If you keep bees, you'll probably get stung. I kind of leave my ankles unprotected. I want to keep my resistance up.
- So it doesn't really hurt anymore? (Shakes head no). It's good for arthritis, too.
©The Saratogian 2003