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Billings bees hide away for winter, head to California for warmer pollinating weather

Posted at 6:34 PM, Feb 15, 2024

BILLINGS — Winter weather has hit Billings, causing professional and enthusiast apiarists alike to prepare their bee hives for colder temperatures.

“When it's real cold like this you don’t see anything because they’re clustered together inside, and to keep each other warm, they keep it to almost 90 degrees in that cluster,” said Tony Seitz, a local beekeeping hobbyist.

Seitz, who hand crafted his hives, keeps his bees among the snow, but said he has made adequate preparations to help keep them warm and safe.

“The hives I built have real thick walls. So, they have insulation more like a big tree would have,” said Seitz.

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Bees provided with more industrialized infrastructure, however, have been sent to other parts of the country to pull a double pollinating duty for the year, according to the professionals who handle them.

“We’re basically a two paycheck type (of) industry. Y’know, (have run) our honey production in Montana and Wyoming, and then in California, when they start ramping up the almond acreage … We get paid to pollinate the almonds,” said Todd Larson, owner of Todd D Larson Apiaries.

The extra workload not only ensures another source of income for the bee’s owner, but it also keeps the bees safe from winter hazards like parasites and disease, according to Larson.

“Basically, when we had the varroa mite, the parasitic mite, come on in the late 80s, early 90s, and stuff, then that really compromised (the bees’) health,” said Larson, “Our overwintering losses, y’know, were a lot higher percentage.”