Beekeeping in Carlisle

Written by Ernie Huberernie

The video link to the TED talk by Marla Spivak on this website is an excellent introduction to what’s happened to US honeybees in recent years and what we can do about it. Marla lays the blame for the disappearance of our pollinators at the doorstep of several sources-(a) lack of good bee nutrition because of loss of diverse food sources and our increasing use of crop monocultures,(b) increases in the number of foreign pathogens which have arrived in the US like the varroa mites, and, most importantly, (c) a change in the types and efficacy of the pesticides which are in use today.

I have been keeping bees for 34 years in Carlisle and have seen many changes through the years. Beekeeping used to be easy before the foreign varroa mites came to Massachusetts in 1988. The first hive that  my kids and I set up in 1979 yielded about 300 lbs. of honey. Beginners luck, perhaps, but a 100 lb. yield  per hive was common  and expected in those days..When the varroa mites (alluded to by Marla Spivak) arrived thelosses the in first year  were cataclysmic- maybe 90% over the State.  A few years later Roger Morse, Chair of the Entomology Department at Cornell, told me that he thought that all of the feral (wild) colonies of honeybees in New England had been wiped out by the mites.

Ernie Huber opening a hive at a house on Westford Road .  All the little dots are bees in the air. (Photo by Steve Kirk.)
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