Beekeeping in Vermont
Adam and Bianca
Adam and Bianca

Bianca and Adam of Vermont Bees traveled in February for a chilly trip to a warm-hearted country.

1bbBreakfast included homemade bread, fresh eggs, cherry tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and rose-hip soup-Vit C power!When I was asked to visit Sweden and speak to their National Beekeepers Associations, I didn’t hesitate to say yes, so long as I could bring my partner and greatest friend, Adam!

We found the Swedish people to be organized and design centric. Things had a good flow, even traffic. We rented a car and found the driving easy to pick-up. Everyone speaks English and they’re very agreeable.

The beekeepers wanted to know about commercial beekeeping from the perspective of a stationary American beekeeper. More specifically, they wanted to hear from a woman. The population of women in professional beekeeping is increasing in Sweden and they wanted to bring in education for their growth.

The conference was four wonderful days full of learning, spectacular food, and delightful people. It was held in a conference center & chocolaterie called Aronsborg. We enjoyed bits of chocolate in all winter settings.

I spoke to the beekeepers about our small commercial operation in Vermont which is comparable to larger operations there. I talked about some adaptations we’ve made in our operation and my queen rearing methods.

I learned so much it’s impossible to describe in short. I came back feeling really different about myself and my beekeeping. The Swedes live a little bit more slow and present. They appreciate good connected conversation over good, fresh food. It was refreshing and inspiring.

2bb copyProfessor Norberto GarciaThe Swedish beekeepers were really focused on honey adulteration. Though ahead in many ways, Sweden hasn’t yet enacted the anti-dumping laws that currently protect Americans from plummeting honey prices and adulterated market flooding we faced not long ago. The local farmers make tons of beautiful honey they aren’t able to sell because of a market saturated by fake or imported honey. As a result they have resorted to co-ops and other ways of selling, while desperately looking for change. We saw presentations by Norberto Garcia and Etienne Bruneau on honey adulteration and future ways to mitigate.

3bbA Thomas honey line w/hydraulic lift.When I brought up the issues of neonicotinoids and how beekeepers felt post-ban (Europe banned neonics officially in 2018), it felt like old hat. The response was aghast- you’re still using, what? The farmers felt that less pesticides on the landscape had aided them in their low average losses (<10%!). [Imagine a world where a 30% loss was virtually unheard of! And many beeks there are treatment free!].

4bb copyPresenting on the big stage- proud to represent the VBA!After the conference we visited with several commercial beekeepers in the Stockholm region at their operations, including Thomas Dahl, Dr. Barbara Locke and her team at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Sundström’s at Uplands Honung, and Erik Österlund of Elgon Bees. All of the beekeepers were kind, humble and welcoming. We enjoyed Swedish Fika which is their ritual mid-afternoon break for strong coffee, snacks, and good conversation. It was an honor and a pleasure to be included in such a lovely adventure. Many thanks to Richard Johansson for inviting us.

- Bianca Braman is Vice President of the Vermont Beekeepers Association. A pdf of this article with additional pictures is available to download.