Letters to the Editor

 Letters to the Editor - April 2015


Fedor Lazutin: Telling The Bees

“Daddy, when you die you won’t be able to care for your bees,” said my son Yarosvet, 4, then continued: “But this is OK, because I’ll care for them in your place.” I swallowed the tears and answered: “Thank you, Yarosvet! I really appreciate that.”

I had a similar feeling as I walked around my snow-covered beeyard in the morning of February 17, 2015. Following an ancient custom, I whispered into each hive’s entrance: “Fedor died.” Looking at some bees frozen in the snow and hearing the steady hum of their colonies, I marveled at the great miracle of the continuance of life even as each living being eventually fades away.

Dr. Thomas Seeley of Cornell University, author of Honeybee Democracy, considers Fedor Lazutin one of Russia’s foremost natural beekeepers, and feels that Fedor’s book Keeping Bees With a Smile: A Vision and Practice of Natural Apiculture will “shake up the thinking of the independent-minded beekeepers in North America and Europe.”

Fedor’s apiary near Kaluga, some 150 miles southwest of Moscow, drew visitors from around the world as people came to witness a natural beekeeping approach few of us would even imagine possible. In his entire life Fedor has not treated his bees even once against disease; never fed bees sugar; never requeened a hive; and has not made a single split, masterfully propagating colonies by natural swarming.

He also planted vast fields of wildflowers and hundreds of species of nectar-producing trees and shrubs. Fedor wrote in Keeping Bees With a Smile: “The magnificent linden trees stand to this very day as a living reminder of the good people who planted them so long ago. What else could serve as such a beautiful memory of a human being?”

A world full of flowers, healthy bees, and children’s laughter was Fedor’s vision of the future. A world without war where happy families live close to the land in harmony with Nature. Today, the living oasis Fedor and his family created serves as proof that this way of life is indeed possible. Visiting his quaint home and beeyard in 2010 - a hundred beautiful horizontal hives with peaked roofs and 18”-deep frames - totally transformed my ideas about what can be achieved in beekeeping, and in life in general.

Fedor Lazutin presented a series of natural beekeeping workshops to hundreds of American beekeepers in October 2014. I feel so privileged and humbled I had the opportunity to hear these enlightening presentations. Completely unaware of Fedor’s serious condition, I did not do a video recording, thinking: “I’ll do it all next time when he comes in 2015.” But luckily we did record the audio, and will be able to share his talks and free hive plans with everybody at www.HorizontalHive.com

After returning to Russia in November Fedor organized a big natural beekeeping conference in Moscow, and sent me more of his fireweed honey. Just three weeks ago I received a short email from him: “Leo. All is Good. Thank you so much. F” This was the last I heard from him.
Three days before his passing my wife saw him in a dream. He was so happy and smiling. He gave her a wink and said: “Sorry I won’t be able to come back.”

Fedor Lazutin will continue to live through all the bees and flowers that thrive thanks to his methods in apiaries around the world. As a seasoned commercial beekeeper from Michigan put it, after reading Keeping Bees With a Smile and building his first Lazutin double-wall well-insulated hive: “This book should be a boon to cold-climate beekeepers. It’s nice to know that someone has been able to see the woods for all the trees.”

When Fedor was here in the Ozarks four months ago for his seminar, he liked to walk a forest trail. As I write this, the path is covered in snow that would freeze any bee chancing out of the hive in this weather. But this snow will soon melt to nourish the flowers and become the first nectar of the spring.

To celebrate Fedor’s life work, you can get a copy of Keeping Bees With a Smile for only $20 (that’s $15 off the regular price) until May 31, 2015. Order online at www.HorizontalHive.com or send a check for $25 (this includes shipping) to: Deep Snow Press, HC 73 Box 470, Drury, MO 65638.

Dr. Leo Sharashkin

Beekeeping Finance - Integrating the Honey Business

Several advantages exist for a beekeeper to integrate their small to medium size honey business. Integrating one’s honey business includes such things as selling your honey bee products directly to the end consumer and selling retail, not wholesale. While you will incur the product retail selling costs, you will also realize the retail markup and the production markup. One should note that selling retail is typically a different skill set than producing honey. You will incur additional jar and label costs instead of the bucket cost, in addition to the additional time filling the jars and time and expense traveling to the retail stores. You may also want to consider selling retail on the web with a web “home page.” However selling on the web you need a minimum amount of sales to cover the web development and sustaining cost.

The Financial Analysis Honey Production, Pollination and Queen Rearing Spreadsheets (David E. MacFawn, dmacfawn@aol.com) have been used to analyze various bee operation scenarios to determine investment strategies. The spreadsheets give an insight into pricing strategy, overall operation profit, total investment outlay, individual product line cost and profit, and blended honey pricing and costs. The spreadsheet is pretax with the accounting tax information not included since everyone’s tax situation is different; it is a business planning tool. The Net Present Value (NPV) method is used to determine if your bee operation strategy will work and make you money. NPV is the standard that most United States corporations use in investment decisions. You can run wholesale and retail pricing strategies with the spreadsheet.

Retail markups over wholesale may range anywhere from 30% to 50% with a production markup to wholesale typically lower. Often, the wholesale markups from production cost is in the cost plus fixed fee range more so than market based. This is typically due to fewer number of wholesale buyers with the added issue that small to medium size operations can typically take advantage of the “local honey” retail markup. You need to know your costs per container to ensure you are making a profit and what it is.

For the small to medium producer, you can realize the increased profit from