According to local beekeepers, Sonoma County’s cancellation of a contract with a Petaluma commercial beekeeper has resulted in a victory for local bees. The county had agreed to seasonally host up to 120 hives from Tauzer Apiaries on vacant land in February, intending to boost the county coffers and enhance honeybee biodiversity.
However, the county terminated the agreement less than a month after an uproar from local apiarists.
During the August 7, 2023, Healdsburg City Council meeting, five local beekeepers told council members that commercial beekeeping operations threaten the life and genetic integrity of the local bees.
They referenced Tauzer Apiaries as the commercial beekeeping operation that it had just signed a 3-year contract with the county to store bees off-season.
According to The Healdsburg Tribune, these apiarists cited a 2014 documentary entitled “More than Honey,” pointing out that migratory beekeeping resulted in disease among bees.
The film also cited industrial-scale beekeeping, the indiscriminate use of pesticides, and travel as some reasons for colony collapse in the United States.
Migratory bees also suffer losses from fungicides and varroa mites. Furthermore, Sonoma County beekeepers complained about bees robbing other hives.
This behavior happens when the nectar flow has decreased or stopped. While robbing is instinctual, adding unattended hives can increase the behavior.
Sonoma County 4th District Supervisor James Gore’s office “pursued the public complaints with the county department.” During the meeting, he defended the county’s decision to end the contract.
He said, “I applaud the individuals who spoke up for letting us know that there was not just concern, but some [real] issues.” He continued, “I think it’s appropriate that our folks executed their right to terminate the contract.”
Tauzer Apiaries must remove their bees within 60 days.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware and Kurt Ware
The Healdsburg Tribune: Beekeepers Sway County to Change Policy; By Christian Kallen
USDA: USDA Programs and Resources to Support Beekeepers (pdf)
Tauzer Apiaries: Celebrating 50 Years of Pollinating for Local Growers
NPR: ‘More Than Honey’ Sees A World Without Bees; By Mark Jenkins