In collaboration with local legend and beekeeper extraordinaire Walt Broughton, we’re employing the power of honeybees. Albeit delicious, the byproduct of nectar is not our goal. Instead, we’re partnering with Walt in support of his initiative to increase populations of northern hardy honeybee genetic strains. Residing along waterfront property between two ponds, they seem right at home in our living laboratory of trial and demonstration gardens.
Under Walt’s “Nucleus Providing Campaign” approximately 470 hives have been peppered within a 50 mile radius of Walt’s Swarmbustin’ Honey headquarters located in southern Chester County, PA. North Creek houses 30 of these hives. In the late 2000s, Mr. Broughton started experiencing a sharp increase in winter loss rates and decided something needed to be done. Loss rates had skyrocketed to a staggering 50%, whereas historic winter losses averaged 4-10% in the 80s and 90s.
As loss rates grew, “factory farmed” bees were shipped up from the south to keep colony levels in balance. Instead of unnecessarily stressing the bees with a long journey, Walt is building robust strains raised from survivor stock of northern genetics - not trucked, not stressed. His focus is directed toward the existing bee population to derive a strain that is naturally adapted to our climate. His goal is to build enough healthy splits to be a consistent supplier of bees of good northern genetics.
With honeybees already in peril and varying theories swirling around colony collapse disorder, saving these necessary pollinators is a priority. Walt’s campaign to cultivate good genetics and North Creek’s vision to be a leader in the development and practice of sustainable horticulture systems is a natural fit. Plants containing neonicotinoids are harmful for the overall health of our landscapes and ecosystem services. This is a huge concern for North Creek and our customers who use the plants we grow to provide food and habitat for wildlife.
We decided years ago to put the use of biological controls first through an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. At North Creek, we feel it is our responsibility to supply the market with plants that are healthy and safe from the inside out. As concern about the use of harmful chemicals continues to increase, it is important to be transparent about growing practices from propagation to the planting. To offer the healthiest plants possible, we implement a highly structured IPM plan. The core of our program is forged around setting action thresholds, structured scouting and identification of pests, as well as safe prevention and control methods. For a more in depth explanation of our IPM program, click here.
When asked, “What can I do for the bees?” Walt’s mindset is, “You don’t really have to do a lot in order to do a lot. It’s really as simple as embracing the dandelion, planting a tree, installing a pollinator border or small meadow, providing forage – not everyone needs to keep bees in order to make a difference.”
We’ll keep you posted on Walt’s success with grooming northern hardy honeybees!