Kentucky's chief beekeeper would like to see the numbers of her colleagues grow across the state in 2015.
State Apiarist Tammie Horn said there are only a couple hundred commercial beekeepers in the U.S. Horn, a senior researcher at Eastern Kentucky University, says the vast majority of those who tend hives in the Commonwealth are part-timers, otherwise known as sideliners. She said these beekeepers can still see financial benefits.
"If they're doing all of the value added products, the lotions, the candles, the waxes, and the honey, people in Kentucky can generally make anywhere between five thousand and ten thousand," Horn said.
Horn is also director of Coal Country Beeworks, which develops pollinator habitat on surface mine sites, both active and inactive.
"I think the surface mines sites are just the sleeping giant for the beekeeping needs in this country," Horn said.
Horn estimates the total number of beekeepers in Kentucky at about 25 hundred. She hopes to see the number reach 35 hundred by 2016 with better communication to her office.
"So, that we have a sense of, if we're losing hives, in the far reaches of the Commonwealth, then we know why we're losing hives, Horn said. “If we're losing them to pesticides, we can document that."
Horn says beehive losses in Kentucky in 2014 came to about 22 percent, right in line with the national figure. She says that's not too bad, considering the weather conditions brought on last year by the so-called polar vortex.
Horn believes the greatest growth in beekeeper numbers can be seen among the "sideliners" with between 30 to 200 hives.
"And that group is the really the group I'd like to see increase in Kentucky because I think it suits our farm acreages,” Horn said. “I think it suits may people's lifestyles. You know, very few families can just go on a migratory beekeeping tour to California and move their bees to California."
Ten beekeeping schools are scheduled across the state during the first few months of this year.