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Bees Create a Buzz in Placer County Agriculture

June 13, 2014

Placer County is well known for a wide variety of agricultural commodities including rice, mandarins, and more recently, wine grapes, but perhaps not so well known is the vast number of honey bees buzzing around the county’s summertime blooms.  Bee keepers in Placer County range from small hobby farms with two or three hives to large commercial operations that maintain thousands of hives. Abundant open space and vegetation, along with a temperate climate, make Placer County an ideal location for honey bees to thrive.

The amount of honey produced by a hive of bees depends on multiple variables, but one of the most significant is the amount of nectar available to the bees from blooming plants. With fewer blooms a hive might produce somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds of honey, while a hive that has access to ample blooms might produce between 70 and 100 pounds of honey or more. (FYI, one pound of honey is equal to just over 10 ½ fluid ounces.)

Some of the most beneficial blooms for honey bees in Placer County come from plant species we often find ourselves battling here in the Foothills, such as Yellow Star Thistle, Himalayan Blackberry, and Poison Oak (not to worry, you can’t get poison oak from honey). These plants along with sunflowers, alfalfa, clover, and citrus trees provide ample nectar for the bees to make honey and in fact influence the aroma, flavor, and color of the honey. It is not uncommon for bee keepers, particularly those with large-scale operations, to move their hives from one place to another, including from state to state, chasing blooms for their bees to forage on.

Although all bee keepers will end up with some honey, honey production is not the main focus of all bee keepers. Some bee keepers specialize in providing pollinating services for other farmers, such as almond farmers, while others specialize in breeding and selling bees, including Queen Bees, which are necessary to the vitality of each hive.

There are lots of convenient places to buy local honey.  Many of our local farmers’ markets feature local honey, and you may also be able to purchase it from some of our bee keepers directly.  You can find their contact information at www.placergrown.org by searching for “honey”.
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