Bee hives are a relatively rare sight in Kodiak’s communities, but one Larsen Bay resident is trying her hand at keeping honey bees.
The project is part of a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans that supported Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions in establishing hoop houses and raising livestock.
They’re in their third and final year of the grant.
A group of bees landed in Larsen Bay this week. About four pounds of them – or around 15,000 individual bees.
Tiffany Brown, agricultural technician with the Larsen Bay Tribal Council, says she went to pick up the insects in Anchorage.
“They come in a box with screen on both sides.”
She says she flew the bees into Larsen Bay on Monday, and then transferred them to the hive, which is on the same plot of land as the community’s hoop houses, fruit trees and other plants.
“And then I’ve got some really good flowers that bees really like that I’ll be throwing out around their area.”
Brown hopes this upcoming season will be a warm one.
“I am a little bit nervous about how our summer will go, so all I can do really is cross my fingers.”
This’ll be an experimental year. Brown says the bees will build their combs and the honey should be ready for harvest by August, but the bees will probably be more productive once they’ve established their hive with their own scent. That could take about a year.
Brown says she learned about beekeeping from her dad and other beekeepers in Wasilla, and Larsen Bay bought the bees from Alaska Wildflower Honey out of Big Lake, near Anchorage.
Steve Victors, one of the company’s owners, says Alaska winters are longer and the springs shorter than the typical honey bee climate.
“In order to get our hives to build up to a full work force, we’ve got to start our hives relatively early in the season, so we have cold challenges as far as getting our bees established.”
He says a full hive is about 60,000 bees, up for the starting number of 15,000, and Alaska Wildflower Honey orders them out of California. They’re selective about which type of honey bee goes to which region in Alaska.
“Down in the Kodiak area, we prefer our clients to have either a Carniolan breed or a Buckfast breed. Both of those have proven to be very hardy bees up here. They winter fairly well. They’ve got a mellow temperament to them, quite productive.”
Brown says she doesn’t know of anyone else beekeeping in the villages, although there may be a couple in the City of Kodiak.
Larsen Bay hopes to sell the honey once the hive produces enough of it, and the community will seek out other grants when funds from the Administration for Native Americans run out.