For those of us involved in beekeeping right now, you might get the feeling that beekeeping has hit its pinnacle. While we are still struggling to keep up with the changes nature is throwing at us, we have been caring for our bees much the same way for a long time. The Langstroth hive most of us use is over a hundred years old now. And while it has been updated as new technology has become available, it would easily be recognizable to someone from the late nineteenth century.
Let’s take a look at a few things that might be changing in the beekeeping world in the coming years:
• While there has been a great deal of excitement (and dismay) the last few years over the Flow Hive, it proves that there are a lot of possibilities to the bee box that have not been tapped yet. If cheaper versions are ever made I think it very likely they will be adapted to commercial use. Anything that will cut labor costs and reduce the amount of handling will attract sales no matter what the naysayers claim.
• Beehive design in general has opened wide up in the last couple of decades. While none of the innovative non-Langstroth hives have seemed an improvement to me, that will change once someone properly combines fresh ideas with new manufacturing techniques.
• Commercial beekeepers will see greater value in keeping bees on their own land rather than relying mostly on placements with other landowners. This does not mean they will use only their own land or get out of the migratory beekeeping business altogether, but they will find that they can improve the health of their own bees if they plant well on their own farms. They can also cover some of their losses in a bad year by marketing produce from the bee farm.
• Beekeepers will look for added value in selling their product. I once saw a commercial beekeeper bitterly complaining about hobbyists selling their honey for $9-10 a pound when he was selling his bulk at $2.50. He firmly resisted the idea that he could make a few changes and sell at the same price.
• Local and single source honey (honey from a specific plant, like lavender) will become more popular to the consumer. We are seeing that happen right now. But don’t assume that just because it was grown in the same state it is close enough. Folks want honey that is distinct or has personal meaning to them; large factory type operations do not have this appeal.
• Beekeepers will become better environmentalists. I see this trend in many hobbyists, but my conversations with commercial beekeepers often leave me more than a little worried. For beekeepers to overcome the challenges they face right now they are going to have to move out of their comfort zone and understand not just the science of bees, but the science of the flowers and the environment that the bees regularly interact with.
There you have it, my predictions of where you can expect beekeeping to go in the next two decades.