February 14th, 2008
So far this winter, things are looking fair-to-middlin’ for David Ellingson’s honeybees, but the Minnesotan is holding his breath until later this month, when he learns how two-thirds of his commercial hives have fared during their wintering season down south.
Ellingson has 1,200 hives in Southeast Texas (normally 20,000 to 30,000 bees inhabit a healthy hive), where he hopes the bees are fattening up in the warmer, moister climate. His remaining 700-800 hives buzz about the fields of California, where they are helping to pollinate the state’s massive almond crop.
The next few weeks are critical for the third-generation beekeeper.
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Ellingson, a past president of the American Beekeeping Federation, will learn if he’ll have a repeat of last winter, when he lost 65 percent of all his bees. Also, in the next few weeks, he and those affected by Colony Collapse Disorder and other honey-bee health issues will learn if the current Farm Bill, which has a proposed $75 million for research and disaster-relief, will even make it to the House and Senate floors.
“This year so far our bees look betterâ€¦ If I had another year like last year (Ellingson saw an additional 15-20 percent loss during the ’07 summer), we would be getting ready for a sale. I’m 54 years old. I can’t go any deeper into debt.”
For him, a lifelong passion and family tradition are at stake.