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Getting Our Bee On in 2023

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Beekeeping is no longer a casual hobby of setting up hives, getting bees and collecting honey in the fall. Instead, it has become a whole new level of animal husbandry with best management principals at every turn. 

In 2006-07, numerous beekeepers reported a record 30 to 90 percent loss of beehives. The worker bees were gone. Beekeepers did not find dead bees. However, they did find the queen, and young brood with good honey stores were still in the hive. 

Without worker bees, however, hives are not sustainable. This new situation was referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Beekeepers looked to universities for answers, but research on bees at the time was few and far between.  

Since then, every U.S. university, most U.S. colleges and a few beekeepers are doing some level of research on native or honey bees. What research has discovered is there is not a single cause of CCD, but a long series of environmental and management concerns.

Issues facing
bee production

In addition to loss of habitat, CCD is one of the biggest issues facing all bees. 

It is imperative native and non-native bees have a food or flower source every day from April through October. Homeowners can fix this very quickly by planting flowering trees, shrubs and perennial flowers with several species of plants blooming from April to October. 

Not only will this add beauty to the property, it may improve the property value, and it provides valuable habitat for insects and birds.

A major parasite insect of honey bees is the varroa mite, which has caused huge loses for beekeepers. This mite was first discovered in 1987 in a Florida apiary and is now a national issue. 

The honey bee Apis mellifera doesn’t have resistance to this pest, and there isn’t any known biological control. Beekeepers must walk a fine line between treating their honey bees without killing them, otherwise the varroa mite will kill the entire hive. 

Beehive management

Beekeepers need to inspect their hives at regular intervals. For hobby/backyard beekeepers, this should be every seven to 10 days. 

A hive inspection involves looking for issues, finding the queen, checking on capped brood cells – future bees – inspecting frames for disease issues and determining how much honey is being produced.

Feeding bees when there are few flowering plants in the early spring, mid-summer and late fall, is also important.

Overuse of insecticides and herbicides have contributed to the decline of habitat, native bees and general insects. 

While agriculture and professional pesticide applicators are held to a high standard through testing and licensing, homeowners are not. The label on the container has a wealth of information on how to use the product and what to protect. This label is governed by the federal government and is considered law. 

Individuals should consider reading the label before using any pesticide. 

Wyoming Bee College

Despite these challenges, beekeeping is still a very rewarding craft. Like any agricultural operation, it requires good management, record keeping and staying on top of the latest research. Attending classes and finding beekeeping groups helps as well. 

A beekeeping conference, the Wyoming Bee College, will be held in Cheyenne on March 24-25. Here attendees can learn the craft of beekeeping and improve current skills. This year, the conference will also have a gardening component. Registration will close March 21 at 11:59 p.m. 

For more information, visit

Catherine Wissner is the University of Wyoming Laramie County Extension horticulturist. She can be reached at or 307-633-4480.

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