Pioneer Valley Apiaries is Rob Zywno—that guy with the funny hat and netting on his head, the dirty T-shirt and slacks, and that mud-covered Chevy truck tending to bees at the Barstow Dairy Farm in Hadley. Or at Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst. Or Carr’s Ciderhouse in Hadley. Or a number of other places.
You probably haven’t heard of him, but Rob’s been around, slowly spreading bees across Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley like a Johnny Appleseed of bees. A Robby Bee-ple-seed, if you will.
Rob’s bees are local. Very local. He doesn’t keep bees outside of the Pioneer Valley. He doesn’t move his colonies to warmer climates for the winter. And he doesn’t replace colonies that fail to survive the winter by purchasing new ones elsewhere.
Rob instead uses ‘sustainable beekeeping’ practices. That means he gets the bees he needs by selectively raising queens and creating new colonies from his own local stock. On occasion, Rob brings in other northern-bred queens to further diversify his stock with desirable genetics. This way, Rob’s bees have become more adapted to life in the Pioneer Valley with each passing year as colonies that thrive in our local environment continuously replace the ones that don’t. They are ‘local bees’ in the truest sense of the term.
Rob developed his beekeeping methods under the mentorship of Michael Palmer at French Hill Apiaries—a small, nonmigratory, and highly regarded commercial beekeeper in Saint Albans, Vermont. Mike’s renowned for his sustainable beekeeping methods, for high quality northern queens, and for uncommonly low winter colony losses in his apiaries. Rob has brought everything he learned working for years with Mike back home to Western Massachusetts—with queens to boot. Rob sometimes heads back to Saint Albans, too, just to lend Mike a hand, keep in touch, and see if there’s more to drink from that fountain of knowledge.
The bottom line is Rob uses his unique commercial beekeeping knowledge and experience—along with high quality genetics—to keep healthy, local bees. So when you buy bees or honey from Pioneer Valley Apiaries, you can be sure you’re getting a high quality, truly local product made with serious care and serious skill.