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Potential for Darwinian Beekeeping in New England Forests

Michael Culbertson

Darwinian beekeeping is an alternative to the commonly used Langstroth method (Seeley, 2019, pp. 277-292). It may confer benefits for colony health, resiliency, and genetic selection in the context of massive, global colony decline (Neumann, 2017). This is important because there are 30,418 hives across New England (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2017). However, there has been no systematic evaluation on the potential for adopting this method in New England for small-scale income in diversified production systems. This project will implement Darwinian beekeeping to evaluate colony health, behavior (defensiveness, swarming patterns, hive construction), and potential for honey production (establishment, maintenance, harvest amount). This will be compared with current data regarding Langstroth method to determine where it may be implemented. This data will be distributed to relevant practitioners to improve apicultural practices in the region.

 

This work supports alternative forms of honey production with reduced inputs, improved colony health, genetic adaptation for survival in the locale, and supplemental income. It may therefore qualify for SARE funding. For example, see this similar project on improving apiculture practices: https://projects.sare.org/sare_project/gne20-228/.

 

Potential learning outcomes and benefits:

  • Practical feasibility of Darwinian beekeeping in New England.

  • New scale of practices

  • Improved colony health/genetics

  • Supplemental income for practitioners.

  • Outreach material supporting improved practices in the region.

Site: 62 acres of forest land. There is no record or indication of previous beekeeping on the site. There are no adjacent crop fields.

 

Further information on design, implementation, and discussion available upon request.

Bibliography

 

Neumann, P. and Blacquière, T. (2017). The Darwin cure for apiculture? Natural selection and managed honeybee health. Evolutionary Applications. 10(3), 226-230. https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.12448

Seeley, Thomas D. (2019). The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild. Princeton University Press.

Suni, S. S., Scott, Z., Averill, A., & Whiteley, A. (2017). Population genetics of wild and managed pollinators: implications for crop pollination and the genetic integrity of wild bees. Conservation Genetics, 18(3), pp. 667-677.

 

National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2017). 2017 Census of Agriculture (Publication No. AC-17-A-51). United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_1_US/usv1.pdf

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