Sustainable Beekeeping : Mike Palmer

Are you satisfied with your bees in the spring? Are they alive or are they dead?”

About this Event

Cambridgeshire Beekeepers Association are delighted to welcome Mike Palmer from his home in Vermont, USA to talk to us about Sustainable Beekeeping

What is sustainable beekeeping? Beekeeping is sustainable when the interactions between humans and honey bees contribute positively to healthy populations of locally-adapted indigenous bees living in the wild and in the apiaries of beekeepers. For many years Mike Palmer has been working to convince beekeepers that they can raise their own bees without having to buy in bees from elsewhere. This is how he recommends we do it.

About the Speaker

Mike Palmer grew up in New York City and as a child was fascinated by all the plants, insects and animals all around him. He then went on to study in Vermont where he met and fell in love with his wife Lesley and with the local countryside and he decided to stay. He first started keeping bees in 1974 with varying success. Then in 1998 he decided to change the way he overwintered his bees and he began to concentrate on the quality of his bees and not the quantity. Today Mike raises about 1200 queens a year and manages over 1000 colonies and is widely recognised as a worldwide authority on sustainable beekeeping. He has built up French Hill apiaries into the successful farm that it is today.


09 Dec 2020


7:00 pm






Cambridge Beekeepers


  • Michael Palmer
    Michael Palmer
    French Hill Apiaries, Vermont, USA

    As a child, Michael Palmer  spent most of his spare time outdoors, fascinated by the plants and insects and animals living in his suburban New York City 

    environment. He escaped the city by going off to the University of Vermont, where he fell in love with the countryside, his future wife, and eventually the little bugs that we all hold so dear.

    The first colonies of honeybees arrived in 1974 as packaged bees, and over the following twenty odd years, he built French Hill Apiaries into a farm of nearly a thousand colonies. About 1990, Acarine mites and then Varroa mites arrived in his bees. The result was not pretty. Beekeeping became way more difficult, and way more expensive. With ever increasing losses, the wisdom of buying in replacement bees came into question. Splitting strong colonies reduced the honey crop and pollinating the local apple orchards caused the whole operation fall apart with failing colonies, broken equipment, and one thoroughly exhausted and frustrated beekeeper.

    In 1998, Mike tried raising a few queens, wintering them in nucleus colonies. The results changed his beekeeping forever. Not only did the bees winter more successfully and store larger surplus honey crops, the fun level rose to new heights, far above the clouds. 

    Believing that quality should always outweigh quantity, a decision was made to cut back on the total number of production colonies in the apiary and focus on raising the best queens possible. With a thousand nucleus colonies of various configurations to help support the seven hundred honey producing colonies, French Hill Apiaries produces, on average, some twelve hundred queens and thirty to forty tons of honey annually. 

    Michael lives in St. Albans, Vermont with his wife Lesley and  Wilson their Maremma sheepdog. When not in the apiaries, Mike travels the world teaching sustainable beekeeping to anyone who will listen.

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