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Honey Beekeeping on an Island Tidal Salt Marsh??

 
Barb Baechtel
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Hello! This is my first post on Permies. I'm looking forward to learning a bunch from you wonderful folks. My question today is, can honey bees flourish in an island tidal salt marsh environment? My husband and I would like to keep bees once we are settled in our retirement home. Our semi off-grid home is very isolated, on an island in the middle of a salt bay - 9 miles from the nearest solid land and accessible only by boat. The island is about 9 miles long and the vegetation is chiefly tidal salt marsh species. Sedges, marsh grasses of all sorts, with some hummocks of pine and such. There are some wild fruit trees, pomegranate, persimmon, etc... We want to keep a food garden and feel we will need to keep bees for pollination. Honey would be a bonus. I am concerned that there won't be enough nectar producing flora to sustain the colonies. Thoughts?

Barb
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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Hi Barb,
It would be a bit hard to give concrete answers without actually seeing the island's fauna. I would suggest going with Mason bees. One can buy Mason bees for introducing to new areas. Or, I would just set up some Mason bee blocks at friend’s houses on the main land, this spring, particularly rural living friends. Then put the blocks up on the island in the Fall.
Second idea comes with a disclaimer- “If you ask 12 beekeepers the same question you will get 13 different answers” If you have your heart set on keeping bees, I would use a Warre hive. I keep bees in Warre, Top Bar and Langstroth hives and my Warres are usually the smallest colonies of the three. I am sure some beekeepers may disagree with that statement, but it is my consistent experience with the bees.

 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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welcome to the forum, Barb.

not much to add to Emile's post. depending on how much land you have control of, it would be relatively easy to add enough plants to support a few honey bee colonies. the island is certainly big enough, but it doesn't sound like there's a whole lot in the way of nectar available. I would guess that there's a fair amount of pollen, though, which is a start. sources of resin for propolis are also important, as are sources of fresh water, though guttation likely supplies some of that.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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It sounds like you are in zone 8 most likely on the east coast or Seattle area.
With the "hive" being 9 miles from the mainland they are stuck on the island.
But the island is big enough to provide for quite a few hives. So go ahead and get 2 hives box and queen bee.
If all you want is pollinators, I dont think that you have to worry the native fauna will take care of it or you could just get a few mason bee
 
Barb Baechtel
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Thanks, folks. I know I haven't given you much to go on. Would it help if I listed the types of plants found in the area (according to the Army Corps of Engineers?) I'm not familiar enough with what bees need (truly a neophyte, actually) to know what plants are good, but maybe you would? I'm interested in natural, organic beekeeping, if that helps. As for land available, there is some "high ground" near the house (an acre or so), but by high, I mean 4' and less above sea level. The area is tidal and floods with baywater regularly, so planting is iffy, at best. The bay is fed by freshwater rivers, so it is only about 7% the salinity of the ocean, but it's still significantly salty for plants. We hope to raise the garden to protect it from tides and water it with collected rainwater. This is not going to be an easy project. LOL I could throw a bunch of wildflower seed over there and see what takes, I guess. The soil is sandy and salty, so not much likes it, I'm afraid. I'm in Zone 7, East Coast, by the way. I'll track down that plant list.

I so very much appreciate your time and willingness to share your knowledge. I know not what I do.... LOL

Barb
 
Barb Baechtel
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Hello again - Well, I found the article that lists the plant species on the island, but it's HUGE, so I don't think I need to bore you with it. After more research, I think I have come to the conclusion that the island CAN support a colony or two of bees. My question now is genetic diversity. Will I have to establish an import/export cycle, bringing bees to and taking bees from the mainland, in order to assure genetic diversity in my hives? I'm thinking generations of inbreeding would be a bad thing.
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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Barb Baechtel wrote:My question now is genetic diversity. Will I have to establish an import/export cycle, bringing bees to and taking bees from the mainland, in order to assure genetic diversity in my hives? I'm thinking generations of inbreeding would be a bad thing.


I'm glad you're thinking about this. it's really going to depend on where you get your bees. if you buy a package or a nuc with a captive bred or artificially inseminated queen, genetic diversity will most certainly be an issue. if you get a naturally mated queen, she'll have mated with around 16 drones, and should have a good start on the diversity front. two colonies with two naturally mated queens should keep you going for a long time. it would be a good idea to periodically bring in some new blood, but I would think that you could go a number of years without having anything to worry about.

the easiest way to get naturally mated queens, at least where I'm at, is to collect feral swarms. unfortunately, it's not always easy to tell which swarms are feral and which issued from another beekeepers hives.

there may be some folks selling bees that are open mated, but I'm not familiar with any. ask around the area. they may end up being cheaper, too. having only populated my hives with collected swarms, that is an aspect of the business that I have very little knowledge of.
 
Barb Baechtel
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Thanks, I appreciate your answer. You seem to be mirroring my thoughts on the subject. Our plan is definitely to avail ourselves of locally acclimated, wild swarms, but as you said, they could just as easily be managed swarms from other beekeepers. I'm not sure how I would tell, unless I identified a marked queen.

I figure we will start with one colony and see how it goes. If the colony thrives and ends up swarming in a year or so, I'll pawn the swarm off to a mainland beekeeper and bring in another wild swarm to supplement and add diversity. If I have winter loses, I'll bring in wild swarms from the mainland again and any natural hive splitting, I'll bring back over to the mainland for someone else. That should keep it fairly diverse, right? I'd like to keep to two or possibly three hives. I'm concerned that more might overwhelm the island's resources.

Barb
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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marked queens are a dead giveaway that you've got a beek's bees. the swarm hanging out yards away from a feral colony in a tree cavity is a pretty sure sign you've got a feral swarm. failing those two, it's a guessing game.

drones visible in the swarm suggest a feral swarm or at least a swarm that issued from a fairly hands-off beek's apiary. a diversity of worker coloration and size does the same.

if you plan on frequent trades with the mainland, though, I think you'll end up with plenty of genetic depth.

I think it's wise to limit yourself to just a few hives. maybe over time you can encourage more of the native flowering plants that are around and increase your apiary. a couple hives should be more than adequate for garden pollination and household honey supply, though.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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