Alaska beekeepers face difficulty with short summer season; nonprofit looks to help

Published: Aug. 2, 2018 at 12:12 PM AKDT
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Keeping honeybees alive in Alaska is no easy task, especially year-round. As the insects aren't built to survive subzero temperatures, many keepers in the state will purge or kill off their bee colonies after the summer season ends.

To make the best use of the small window, bee advocates from other states came up to Alaska to promote a quantity approach to keeping bees.

According to officials with the "Save The Bee" initiative, while weathering the bees can be hard even where they're based, Eugene, Oregon, the effort is even more difficult in Alaska.

"I know Oregon beekeeping, you know, Pacific Northwest beekeeping, and Alaska beekeeping is a little bit different," said Jason Robinson, spokesperson for GloryBee honey corporation, which makes donations to, and runs, the "Save The Bee" nonprofit. "The big challenge where I'm from is keeping your bees alive over the winter, but a lot or in fact most Alaskans don't."

The main problem is the cold and moisture, which dip below ideal beekeeping temperatures in Alaska much sooner than elsewhere.

"It's really hard over wintering bees, even in the Pacific Northwest, and so when you get into Alaska with such a short beekeeping season, it's even more challenging," Robinson said.

Instead, a shift has happened to get more Alaskans interested in beekeeping, with the thought that even if their bees don't survive the winter, there will be more overall colonies. This, too, has its own challenges, as global temperatures tend to be less reliable, causing bees populations to

"You talk to a lot of older bee keepers, and they had a much easier time keeping bees 40 years ago than they do today," Robinson said. "Bees face a lot of challenges in this day and age, and especially the climate being harder on bees than it used to be."

To that end, propping up the bee industry in Alaska means getting more people invested in tending to bees and producing honey.

At farmer's market held at the Fire Island Bakery in Anchorage, "Save The Bee" raffled off a complete beekeeping rig (everything needed except the bees themselves) and other items to get newbie beekeepers started.

"We just want to help bees be the best that they can be," said Robinson.