Beekeeping in Vermont

Beekeeping in Vermont

Vermont Beekeeping Clubs

Addison County Beekeepers Club On select Wednesdays during January, February, March, and October.  Apiary workshops are hosted in season April through September. Follow the ACBA Facebook page or the VBA calendar meeting details
For information contact: Fred Putnam, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Scott Wilson
Facebook Users:  Addison County Beekeepers
 
Bennington County Beekeepers Club
For information call: 802-823-7955 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Brownington Beekeepers Group
We meet at the Old Stone House in Brownington, VT. and welcome beekeepers in the Northeast Kingdom.

For information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 610-207-4923 (cell)

Franklin County Beekeeping Club
Meets on the third Thursday of every month at the Fairfield Town Library at 6:30pm.  Directions: Map
For information contact: Darci Benoit
Facebook Users: Franklin County Club Facebook Group

Lamoille County Beekeeping Club
04/04/20: Currently Inactive
For information contact:
Facebook Users: Lamoille County Club Facebook Group

Windham County Beekeepers Club
Moore Free Library in Newfane
Contact: Jeff Battaglini at 896-9770 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://windhamcountybeekeepers.com/

Listing updates may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Vermont's Honey Story

European honeybees were brought to America in the 1600’s to provide honey and to pollinate a newly introduced animal forage called clover. Since then the honeybee has become an essential link in our food production chain, pollinating more than 80 commercial crops.

This process of cross-pollination is vital to many plants, enabling them to reproduce and produce seeds and fruit. Many commercial crops need pollination. This is especially true of Vermont's fine apple crop. Other Vermont crops that benefit from pollination include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers.

As you drive the gravel of Vermont's country roads and enjoy the scenic beauty of the many lush pastures which dot our countryside, keep in mind that many of these fields that feed Vermont's dairy herds also provide a significant portion of the "bee pasture" so vital to the state's honey bee industry. Keep in mind too, that Vermont bees work within village and city limits to provide honey and pollination to Vermont's "urban" beekeepers.

Vermont's honey is produced from wildflowers and forage feeds for cattle where use of chemicals is rare. These floral sources from which this honey comes is more various than wine grapes. The honey is a pure product produced by small beekeepers taking pride in their product.

Vermont has long been known for its innovative beekeepers and sweet pastures. The 1868 U.S. agriculture survey showed Vermont as being, as it is now, the leading honey producing state in New England with 12,000 to 15,000 hives producing from 400,000 to 1,000,000 pounds of honey annually. Because of the types of plants that grow in Vermont's sweet soils, our honey is characteristically mild flavored and light colored. But beyond flavor and color, Vermont honey is a tradition worthy of great pride and praise.

Spring

It is interesting to notice how in Vermont the wants of the bee are met from early spring till late autumn. Field work for the honeybees begins in April when, if the weather cooperates, you will see them probing into the silky catkins on Pussy Willow bushes and Swamp Alders. Maple Syrup producers have only recently pulled their taps from the Sugar Maple trees, when the bees are beginning to visit the small flower of these trees and their soft maple cousins.

The first heavy nectar flow of the spring comes with the Dandelion bloom, which can be as high as 60 pounds. Most of these spring honeys are left in the hive to fuel the rebuilding of hive populations which have declined drastically during the winter months. The same is true of the flow from Vermont's Apple trees, though pure Apple Honey, in the rare year when the beekeeper can extract a little, is exquisite; it has the delicate taste and scent of the Apple flowers themselves.

Summer

The early summer flow starts with Black Locust trees. Their drooping clusters of white flowers don't produce every year, but when they do they hum with bees, and yield a water white honey of heavy body and mild flavor. Beehives in some locales can also put in a sizable crop of honey at this time from both Wild Blackberry and Raspberry bushes. It is a superior honey and, like locust, very light-colored.

The main event for many beekeepers begins in mid-June with the onset of the clover flow. For about two weeks various species of clover grown as feed for dairy cows flower and, especially in hot, humid days of early summer, produce tremendous quantities of nectar. Hives on platform scales have shown 12 pound gains in a single day as the bee yard roars with activity. It is the clovers and their close relatives in the legume family of plants that have turned Vermont into a land of milk and honey, and clover honey, so rich and smooth, is a special favorite.

Probably the most identifiable clover is White Dutch. Most people have seen bees working in its small, low growing flowers on their lawns or in pastures. Alsike, the queen of clovers, is a major component of good hay. Tallish, with large white heads tinged with pink, it thrives in sweet clay soils like those found in the Champlain Valley. Some beekeepers have estimated that an acre of Alsike will produce 500 pounds of honey in a good season. The nectar of red clover, the state flower, is ironically not available to honeybees. Their tongues are too short to reach the nectar at the base of the flowers. Bee breeders have actually been trying for years to develop a long tongued honeybee that can work red clover, as bumblebees can. The frenzy of the clover flow has usually subsided in the bee yard by the Fourth of July, when the first cut of hay is down and in the barns, and by this time the better part of a hive's surplus may have been made.

Honey from the beautiful Basswood tree is next. A six-to-ten day flow in early July (again, not to be depended upon every year) produces a fine honey, light colored and slightly minty. The purple flowers of Alfalfa, the world's most widespread forage crop, grown on farms everywhere in Vermont, can attract bees in July if conditions are right, and if farmers don't cut and bail it before it blooms. Many Wild flowers, Vetch, Milkweed, Sumac, and several Mint varieties, round out the summer crop and lend a bit of piquancy to it.

Autumn & Winter

As summer winds down, thick stands of goldenrod and aster appear in just about every corner of the state to signal an end to the summer. This is one of a typical year's biggest flows, but because fall honey is often a bit darker and stronger flavored than earlier honeys, most beekeepers leave it in the hive. It's going to be about six months before the bees will be able to dine out in field and forest again, and each hive will need from 60 to 90 pounds of honey stores to make it through the winter.

So ends a chronicle of one honey season. The average honey crop in Vermont is about 50 to 60 pounds (five gallons per hive). Many small beekeepers prefer to remove and extract parts of the crop periodically, as various specialty honeys appear in the hive. The larger commercial operators, who keep their bees in the heavily farmed valleys where the clovers predominate, generally remove the crop all at once and call it "clover honey". Beekeepers in higher elevations often blend their honey in the same way and refer to it as "wildflower honey". It is characteristically a darker amber color and more robust tasting than the clover. We, the members of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, one of the oldest agricultural groups in Vermont, take a great deal of pride in the honey we harvest. It has rightfully come to be known as a gourmet product.

Often overlooked by the public is the honey bee's greatest contribution to agriculture, namely their pollination service. The body of the bee is covered with very small branched hairs, that readily accumulate pollen grains as the bee flies from flower to flower gathering nectar. With each new flower visited, some pollen is inadvertently dropped off, and some is picked up. The bees then carry the nectar and pollen back to the hives to feed their young. Pollen is the bees' source of protein as nectar supplies their carbohydrates.

Many people, honey lovers among them, are unclear as to what honey is and how it is made. Simply stated, honey is a concentrated solution of simple sugars, mostly fructose and glucose manufactured by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. The foraging honeybee draws nectar up from the host flower's nectar glands and stores it temporarily in her honey crop. During the return flight to the hive, she adds enzymes to the nectar that begin to break down the nectar's sucrose into simpler sugars.
 
Customarily, once bees in a hive have been alerted to a new honey source through several different and distinct dances, the foraging bees will "work" that source until it's exhausted. Then they will move on to another flower.
 
Once home, the field bee gives these contents to the hive bees, who store them in the cells of the colony's wax combs. At this point the un-ripened honey has a water content of between 50 and 75 percent, and would spoil if left as is. The honey must be protected from deterioration to be of use to a hive of bees, which may store it for months or even years before it needs to use the honey. So the bees quickly reduce the moisture to less than 18 percent by fanning their wings to circulate air throughout the hive.
 
When the proper honey density has been reached by this process of evaporation, the bees seal the finished product in cells with a wax capping and the job is done. Honey supplies the carbohydrate (energy) portion of the bees diet. Pollen, also collected from the flower, and stored like honey, provides the bees with protein.

State Apiculturist & Vermont Law

Are you legal? Did you know that Vermont State Law says that you must register your hives? Please become familiar with the laws applicable to beekeeping in Vermont. The Vermont Apiary Program website includes useful information and necessary registration forms.

"As required by Vermont Statute, Title 6, Chapter 172, 

"§ 3022 & 3023. A person who is the owner of any bees, apiary, colony, or hive in the State shall register with the Secretary in writing on a form provided by the Secretary...and shall pay a $10.00 annual registration fee for each apiary location.

"Registration for new Apiaries is due upon ownership of bees. Renewal period is open from June 1st through June 30th each year."

Apiary Registration Form

Importing Honey Bees and used beekeeping equipment into Vermont

"Beekeepers bringing honey bees and/ or used beekeeping equipment into Vermont from out-of-state are required to first fill out the  Hive Import Form, a minimum of 14 days prior to intended import into Vermont. Beekeepers will be provided with an Import Permit, after the application has been reviewed and a valid Health certificate from the state of origin is provided."

Relevant statutes may be found online.

Read more about the State of Vermont Apiary Inspection Program and be sure to register your hives.

You'll be helping to fight the spread of disease in the Vermont beekeeping community.

Questions for the State Apiculturist? Call: 802-272-6688 or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Summer Meeting Success!

July 24, 2010 - VBA Members  from around the state attended the Summer Meeting of the Vermont Beekeepers Association at the Long Trail School in Dorset to elect officers for the coming year, conduct other business and hear presentations by featured speaker Dr. Marla Spivak (see picture),a professor of Entomology at the University of Minnesota.vba2

Dr. Spivak has been conducting research on reducing pesticide use in honey bee colonies through sound sampling and treatment procedures. She gave two presentations: “The Benefits of Propolis to Bee Health” and “Long Term Plan for Stock Improvement in the US” which included her thoughts on obtaining consistent Varroa mite counts. (Watch the VBA site for further details on her presentation.)

The VBA's slate of officers: President, Bill Mares; Vice-president, Maddie Sobel; Membership Secretary, Valarie Wilson and Recording Secretary, Jeffrey Hamelman were unanimously re-elected to serve the organization for another year. Newly elected to serve as Treasurer was Rick Stoner. 

We thank these generous people for donating to our Summer Meeting Raffle.


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