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Beekeepers facing inflation, supply shortages challenges as bee season approaches

Beekeepers in eastern Iowa are starting to get ready for bee season, but twin economic impacts of inflation and supply shortages are causing concerns.
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 9:23 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - With temperatures warming up, beekeepers in eastern Iowa are starting to get ready for bee season, but twin economic impacts of inflation and supply shortages are causing concerns.

H.R. Cook picked up beekeeping as a hobby when the COVID-19 pandemic started two years ago.

”After COVID you find yourself still with a hobby, well I found myself with about 100,000 bees,” he added.

Now he also finds himself having to pay more for the materials he needs for beekeeping, which includes lumber, with prices that are up three to four times what they have been for the past ten years.

”All the way up to the honey bears, which are made in China, they have to be shipped from China,” he mentioned. “There are millions of these honey bears sitting over on a cargo ship to glass jars that we put the honey in and we sell at the farmers markets.”

But Cook said people who make a living out of beekeeping are probably feeling the impact the most. He explained commercial beekeepers usually ship their bees to California during the winter to pollinate almond trees and now bringing them back with high gas prices and inflation is proving to be quite the challenge.

“Now is the time where they have to bring them back, when they come back to the hives of Iowa,” he said. “The gas prices have almost doubled for diesel prices, so it is very expensive to get them back to Iowa for the commercial beekeepers to make a living.”

Phylicia Chandler, a beekeeper and member of the Dubuque Swiss Valley Bee Club, said beekeepers are also dealing with supply shortages. She said she knows of other beekeepers who have struggled to find hive equipment and honey extractors.

She emphasized not having the necessary equipment and materials could be very detrimental to beekeepers.

”When we need something, we need it now,” she said. “And it can be a matter of if you are catching a swarm and you do not have what you need, then you have nowhere to put those bees if you do not have that extra hive.”

Chandler said, however, something good has come out of these trying times. She said she has noticed how so many beekeepers in eastern Iowa have come together to support one another.

”Beekeepers work together, so if they are ever in need we call on other beekeepers to help us out,” she added.

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