12 June 2014
The Short Answer (TSA)
An apiary is a small area in which the hives of domesticated honey bees are kept by beekeepers. “Bee yard” is another word of an apiary. And the size of the front or back yard of an average home is about the size of a traditional apiary.
Still as late as the 1960’s, farmers would rent (for honey) a small area of land to a beekeeper as an apiary. In those distant days, beekeepers would ask a farmer’s permission to move their hives, temporarily, near the farmer’s blooming crops to allow the bees to gather honey and pollen. Then, beekeeping was about honey production.
Everything has changed.
Now apiaries are a home base where beekeepers keep their moveable hives when it isn’t pollination season. During that season, when the crops bloom, beekeepers engage in what can be an almost frenzied flurry of activity as they transport their hives, sometimes over hundreds of miles, to “pollination sites.”
Why? Because, today, beekeepers make most of their money (and they “do well”) providing pollination services. Honey production has become almost a sideline.
Giant farms with a “giant” amount of crops. And a shortage of bees. In the first half of the 20th Century, bees were plentiful. No farmer had to go out searching for bees to pollinate. Bees were so numerous, they were sometimes a nuisance. Now, fortunes (fortunes!) ride on the successful pollination of crops — a pollination that must happen in a very narrow window of time. Beekeeping, although not a popular profession, in modern times, is certainly a profitable one.
The main challenge to keeping a modern apiary is location. During the off-season (that is all seasons other than pollination season), honey bees must eat and raise their brood (young bees). Locating an apiary requires that there be sufficient sources of pollen and honey within a radius that is comfortable for the type of bees kept.
Sometimes, a beekeeper can’t choose the location of the apiary. Then, the bee population and the number of hives must be adjusted to match the food supply within a comfortable distance.