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Beekeeping and Prepping

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Beekeeping for prepping nz

Beehives are a source of countless valuable resources, especially during any scenario that would impact the supply chain.

Honey Supply

Honey – the honeybees best known-product – has been sought after for millennia as one of the sweetest naturally occurring substances. Also, Honey has a very long shelf life, if stored dry, cool and dark. Imagine how much worth a jar of honey would be as soon as there are no more candies or chocolate bars left.

Also, Honey can be turned into mead, by fermenting it – delicious honey-wine. A bottle of it certainly would be another valuable bartering item during tough times.


What is less well-known is that beeswax was a very precious resource as well during the times before synthetic waxes became common. Beeswax candles were only used by the wealthiest. The ordinary people had to rely on oil lamps – a historic fact that is often overlooked by the movie industry.

Today beeswax is still used as a food-safe coating of pills and an essential ingredient of many lip balms and creams. However most commercial products only contain trace amounts of beeswax, due to its high cost compared with other mineral-oil based ingredients. Luckily it is a very simple matter to make these things at home mixing beeswax with vegetable oil or even lanolin.


Propolis is a sticky resin that the bees collect from trees and mix with their saliva. They use it to close off any minor cracks or gaps in their hives eliminating any unwanted drafts. But apart from its stickiness it also acts as a natural broad-band antibiotic, and kills many viruses and fungi. this is one of the reasons why the inside of a healthy beehive is more hygienic than even a well-maintained than a human hospital.

Propolis can easily be processed into tincture dissolving it in 90% food grade alcohol and then can be applied to sore spots directly or consumed a few drops at a time with a spoon of honey. However, two words of caution have to be given here:

First, there are people that are allergic to propolis (and some even to any bee-product) for those propolis tinctures are a no go obviously. Also, Propolis is a natural product collected by the bees. There is no way of controlling what type of tree resin the bees might collect, and thus its precise composition, and mechanism of action will be unknown. Thus, in many western legislatures it is illegal to sell propolis as a medicinal product. If you are severely injured or sick obviously you should always seek professional advice.


Pollen, collected by the bees and its fermented product called bee-bread is a healthy source of protein, but its high price prevents it from becoming too successful.

Speaking of protein, while it is being considered disgusting in western culture to eat insects, some indigenous people all over the world like to eat bee brood. Such a dish would be extremely rich in protein and very healthy. When times are really tough and people are starving you might not find it as disgusting anymore.

So, theoretically Beehives would be able to provide you with all the sustenance you would ever need if you had enough of them. But even 2 Beehives in your backyard would greatly increase the amount of resources you could generate from a limited area of land. This is one of the advantages of bees. Beehives don’t really need that much space, despite their foragers easily flying up to 3kms all around their hive to search for nectar and pollen.

Beekeeping and SHTF

But while all this sounds like beekeeping would be the ideal activity after a disaster, I would not suggest for anyone to start beekeeping just as a means of disaster preparation.

Bee Treatment

Keeping bees can be a very fun and engaging hobby or even a source of income for those that are willing to deal with the hard work and heavy lifting involved. However, due to the newly introduced varroa mite bees cannot survive on their own anymore. And while there have been serious efforts put into breeding varroa resistant breeds none of those are yet available on a larger scale. That means that any beehive that is not treated twice a year is nearly guaranteed die within the first two years.

So, when keeping bees, treating them (even beyond the breakdown of the supply chain) is a must. Luckily, a multitude of treatments, which either utilize synthetic pesticides or organic acids are available. However, if the supply chain would break down these treatments would likely become very scarce very soon.

Also, you need quite a bit of gear to successfully keep bees, all that stuff takes a lot of storage space and costs money (that could be invested in more emergency supplies).

Another severe disease that has to be managed is the so-called American Foulbrood. And no, it does not originate from there. I don’t want to get into too much detail here but in a nutshell, it is a bacterial disease that will eventually kill off a beehive, and then spread to other hives. The bacteria form very resilient spores, so antibiotics will not work. Nothing you can do about it.

It is so bad that there are serious legislations in place in most countries, including New Zealand.

Here, regular checks for it are mandatory and the “treatment” is the killing of all infected hives and burning them in a pit, including all the hive ware.

During a severe disaster obviously the situation gets worse, even if you have the health of your own hives under control. Most beehives are from commercial operations that manage hundreds if not thousands of beehives, and thus have a correspondingly high consumption of treatments. It is doubtful that they will have enough doses stored to even last them a year. Also keeping bees (especially commercially) requires the transport of hundreds of heavy boxes, which will be impossible if the supply chain breaks down and gasoline becomes scarce.

Thus, it is safe to assume that as soon as a widespread disaster would take out the supply chain there would be thousands of beehives that suddenly are not managed anymore. Eventually nearly all of them would succumb to varroa or AFB. This increases the likelihood that those diseases are spread further, as dying beehives often get “visited” from robbing bees from other hives that are still strong. These robber bees then spread the disease to their hive.

So, if you are a beekeeper and want to be prepared for such a scenario, having enough doses stored might be a good idea. Keep in mind that certain treatments have different shelf lives, and make sure to use the oldest ones first. Also make sure you have at least 2 types of treatments stored as you are supposed to alternate them. Varroa mites quickly adapt to treatments and can become resistant to them. In any case be prepared to have increased losses.

Feeding bees

Bees do store honey simply as their food source to get them through winter, when there are no blossoms. Beekeepers that take away all or most of a beehives honey then have to feed sugar syrup to the bees as a replacement. This works perfectly fine, but in a scenario where supplies are scarce so will be sugar. Luckily during a good year, a strong hive will forage more honey than it would need, thus you will be able to just harvest the excess.

Our own emergency stores include big amounts of sugar as it is cheap and long-lasting. During prolonged supply chain disruptions, we would thus be able to feed our beehives if this ever was necessary.

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