A new report is illuminating the health of the honeybee population in Vermont, with a significant increase in bees since 2016 emphasizing the care, cultivation and collaboration of beekeepers and officials in the Green Mountain State.
The Apiary Program within the Division of Public Health and Agricultural Resource Management of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) registers, inspects, and provides education and training to Vermont’s beekeepers. Beekeepers are required to register their apiary locations and report the number of colonies (hives) they maintain. For the 2023 registration, they reported the highest number of colonies on record, 17,145. In 2016, for comparison, Vermont’s number of registered colonies was 9,715, representing a 43% increase over the seven-year period.
Colonies and apiaries registered with VAAFM for 2016, 2019-2023
The increase in colony numbers is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Vermont’s beekeepers. Beekeepers, like all agricultural producers, face many challenges while producing high quality food. Challenges include weather, starvation, bear predation, Varroa mite infestation, and other factors, including periodic exposure to insecticides applied to protect crops. VAAFM has adopted rules to protect bees from pesticide exposure, and we investigate and enforce those rules, as well as enforcing pesticide use directions on pesticide labels designed to protect bees.
One important function of the Apiary Program is to prevent the spread of diseases that can affect bee health. One such serious disease is American Foul Brood, which is an extremely contagious disease. VAAFM inspectors prioritize inspections and responses to the incidence of this disease. Fortunately, the number of cases declined to zero in 2023, from a high of 49 cases in 2020.
Honeybee maladies reported by Vermont beekeeping operations, 2023
Through hard work and careful management, beekeepers are succeeding in managing their colonies and producing valuable honey and other bee products and pollination services in Vermont. VAAFM remains actively engaged in supporting beekeepers through education, outreach, and regulation.
The 2023 Apiary Report is available on our website at: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/agriculture/files/documents/2023%20Apiary%20Status%20Report%20121923.pdf