The Bee Scene

While FastPaks are new to the agricultural scene, there are innovative applications beyond the obvious purposes intended for residential or industrial growers. Consider the new eco-realities of industrial farming taking into account the national shortage of bees to pollinate crops in the U.S. In recent decades, industrial food growing has become complicated by the critical need to depend on migratory commercial pollinators (i.e., traveling beekeepers).

Honey Money

In California, the “new normal” looks like this. To date, California produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds. In the past 30 years, California’s almond yield has quadrupled, pushing aside other more traditional crops and launching a new agricultural “gold rush.” In 2014 alone, the almond industry contributed $7.6 billion to California’s economy and was responsible for more than 100,000 jobs. To keep up with the ever-pressing need for greater production, every winter, beekeepers (or apiarists) from Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, North and South Dakota and Montana rent their hives to farmers in California’s Central Valley to pollinate 1.2 million acres of almond trees.

This delicate, modern standard of industrial pollination relies upon a migratory Seller (beekeeper) to load up a truck trailer of imperiled Product (lives bees), transport them hundreds or thousands of miles away, and then drop them off in an unsecured outdoor acreage to be exposed to environmental threats during the period of their deployment.

The point being, that while the bees are drawn to the sweet nectar of 1.2 million acres of almond flowers, professional bee thieves are drawn to 2.5 million colonies and the scent of money. In just one night, as few as 700 beehives, valued at a million dollars, can go “missing” from a single beekeeper. Bee burglars need full beekeeping suits and hand-held smokers to subdue and corral the bee colonies, indicating that the theft is clearly the work of experienced pros, and not opportunists.

Stopping the Sting of Theft

Apiarists are a tight-knit community; they recognize outsiders who are not one of their own. California law requires commercial keepers to brand their colony boxes by burning or cutting a state-assigned number into the wood so that the boxes can be identified in case of theft.  This law is not strictly followed, and out-of-state beekeepers are exempt. One enterprising company suggested beekeepers attach high tech monitoring devices to the boxes that alert the beekeepers should their boxes experience tampering. But by their nature, beekeepers are not techy types. This is where the FastPaks concept could be valuable. For the cost of one FastPak unit, beekeepers could save their bees and prevent financial ruin. For transportation ease, bee colonies could be easily placed inside an erected FastPak unit that’s been loaded onto a flatbed trailer. Once the destination has been reached, the entire unit is fork-lifted from the truck and placed in almond fields to begin the work of pollination. The colonies remain securely locked inside the unit where the bees may safely fly in and out through a customized opening. The bees find their way home, and thieves move on to pilfer more trouble-free, less secure, colonies.

Are you a beekeeper who’s experienced theft or bee loss? Please share your experiences with us and let us know if the FastPak concept could be of value to you by calling (563) 867-5309 or emailing fred@spiritpartnersinc.com.