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Guest Opinions

Hobbyist Beekeeper’s: A New Wyoming Trend

Written by Kim Decker

Beekeeping in Wyoming is following an interesting trend. There are more hobbyist beekeepers in our state than general commercial beekeepers. According to Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) registration records in 2015, Wyoming had 431 total registered beekeepers. Of those registered, 163 were commercial beekeepers and 268 were hobbyist beekeepers, owning 10 hives or less.   

Why are we seeing the upsurge in hobbyist beekeepers you may ask?  A few of reasons come to mind. First, Wyoming folks are becoming more interested in “home grown” products, knowing that their products have not been treated with pesticides, and/or they want to go the organic route.

The upsurge in community farmers’ markets, people selling apples, etc. at these markets often don’t get the benefit they once received of early pollination from the commercial beekeepers bee force, as these beekeepers are just returning to Wyoming in the early spring from the California almond pollination. Their honeybees are generally in a large holding yard and have not yet been placed on their registered locations out in the county.

Finally, Wyoming people just like the challenge of raising honeybees and enjoy their own honey.

WDA apiary inspectors are in charge of enforcing the Wyoming Apiary Law. For those who choose to become hobbyist beekeepers, the law and regulations contain necessary information to get you off on the right foot with yard registration, restrictions on apiary locations, maximum number of colonies, importation of bees, combs and hives and inspection duties of our department. We are your “go to” agency for registration applications and have the final say in the registration process. 

Some may think that we are being too nosy and don’t like us in your business, but there are several reasons that apiary yard registration is beneficial.

First, if WDA determines too many hobbyist apiaries are being registered within too close proximity of each other or other established apiaries, which may cause a danger of the spread of bee diseases, parasites or pests among bees or apiaries, or that there will be an interference with the proper feeding and honey flow of established apiaries, WDA may refuse to grant any further registration in that locality and area of danger.  We have all heard about the significant colony losses beekeepers have suffered over the past decade, bringing bee health to the forefront.

We also all know how important bees are to agriculture, the food we eat and the crops they pollinate, and often times these crops need to be sprayed for pests.  By knowing where the registered bee locations are in Wyoming, WDA provides GPS coordinates to pesticide applicators to help minimize exposure impacts on pollinators. Communication between growers, beekeepers and applicators is key to protecting pollinators and harmony in agriculture.

Finally, it’s the law, and those who fail to register may suffer penalties.

Along with WDA, there are several beekeeping groups located in Wyoming that would be great reference sources for beginning beekeepers, including the Wyoming Beekeepers Association, the Natrona County Beekeeping Organization in Casper and the Southwest Wyoming Beekeepers operating under SavetheBuzz.org.

Feel free to contact WDA at any time with questions about the apiary program.