It is no news that times are not easy for bees. Threatened by diseases such as varroa, the massive use of plant protection products, and adverse weather, bees, which more than any other insect ensure the survival of humans, are not having a good time.
As occurred in Trentino in the past few years, this negative trend severely affects honey production. For Trentino-South Tyrol, the Italian National Honey Observatory reported a production drop because of bad weather in 2019, an improvement in 2020 followed by another decrease in 2021. The unfavorable temperatures of last year’s April and May forced the Provincial Council to allocate a public fund of € 300,000 in support beekeepers .
In order to produce honey, bees need certain temperatures to fly over flowers and find pollen and nectar. At low temperatures, they can find pollen (useful for brood) but not nectar, which is necessary for feeding. Under such climatic conditions, bees are unable to produce honey because some flower species (acacia and dandelion, for example) do not bloom, thus compromising the production season. This is a great damage to the economy of Trentino’s honey industry, which is an important component of Trentino’s farming sector.
By examining the farm size data, one can see that most beekeepers in Trentino are hobbyists (less than ten hives) and honey production is mainly for self-consumption. Looking at the number of apiaries in the Province of Trento, only 29 beekeepers hold more than 100 hives, and of these only 9 have more than 200. In 2021, more than 30,000 hives were active, of which about 5000 were permanently located outside Trentino-South Tyrol (the preferred region is Calabria, due to the diversity of flowering species) .
In addition to the production of honey and other hive products (royal jelly, propolis, wax, and pollen), some beekeepers are also involved in pollinating agricultural crops and raising queen bees and bee families, which they will later sell to other beekeepers.
Many beekeepers from Trentino call themselves “nomadic beekeepers“. In other words they move the apiary or parts of it (the hives) from the farm site to locations that differ in altitude, vegetation or climatic features. This is referred as “bee pastures” .