Pass the Honey develops direct sourcing relationships with their honeycomb suppliers who source honeycomb from local networks of small-scale beekeepers. It is important to us to keep the traditional craftsmanship of natural beekeeping and honeycomb production alive which is why we partner with small generational beekeepers who adhere to a strict set of standards that positively impact honeybee health, beekeeper livelihoods, and contribute to healthy ecosystems.
Since there wasn’t an industry standard for regenerative beekeeping and there are very little attainable parameters around organic beekeeping, we decided to work with beekeepers to develop an industry standard for regenerative beekeeping to produce regeneratively harvested honey in order to address the critical challenges the honey industry faces that are not addressed with existing certifications or standards. Our regenerative standards are based on research within the beekeeping industry, land management practices, and interconnected systems.
Pass the Honey has defined regenerative beekeeping as, a holistic approach to beekeeping that positively impacts honeybee health, beekeeper livelihood, and surrounding ecosystems, providing consumers with an unadulterated, nutrient-dense food that ultimately contributes to a thriving food system and planet.
It is our aim to support beekeepers who use a regenerative beekeeping approach and to support other beekeepers who do not, in transitioning to regenerative apiculture.
Pass the Honey’s regenerative standards address the following challenges in the industry:
- Honey authenticity, rampant fraud, and adulteration of honey
- Supply system transparency and traceability
- Beekeeping principles and standards which are practical and feasible for beekeepers to implement
- Unknown levels of honey contamination
Regenerative Beekeeping Principles
Honeybee populations depend on biodiversity and are critical to agricultural productivity.
Unfortunately, conventional agriculture, climate change, and the destruction of ecosystems threaten both the biodiversity available and the productivity of honeybees. A 2015 study found U.S. honeybee’s support the pollination of $12.4 billion in crops, yet honeybee colonies steeply crashed by 43.7% from 2019-2020. (need citation) Regenerative agriculture is a framework of practices and principles that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance ecosystems through farming, by paying particular attention to soil health, biodiversity, and resource inputs. The increase in biodiversity associated with regenerative agriculture can help accelerate a positive feedback loop wherein honeybees support crop productivity, and crop diversity supports pollinator health.
After an examination of current challenges and discussions with a variety of stakeholders in the industry, we sought to identify areas of disproportionate impact that could be developed to create positive change across the apiculture system. We asked the question, “What would it look like to design apiculture systems in a way that increases the health and capacity of all the stakeholders in the system - beekeepers, bees, native pollinators, landowners, ecosystems, and consumers?”
Which led us to the development of our Regenerative Beekeeping Principles outlined below:
- Raise and manage honeybees for the long-term health of the species.
- Provide bees with year-round, diverse, high-quality forage from plants.
- Provide bees with forage areas free from harmful chemical substances and other pollutants.
- Only harvest excess honey and comb leaving the bees enough honey to eat over winter.
- Limit the amount of stress to hives.
- Breed for or source locally adapted, pest resistant honeybee stock
- Practice integrated pest management and preventative measures to reduce the spread of pests and disease.
- Be vigilant of and prevent competition of honeybees with native pollinators.
- Partner with landowners to provide honeybees and other pollinators with abundant, diverse, uncontaminated forage.
- Partner with organic and regenerative farmers and ranchers to provide honeybees and other pollinators with healthy forage.
- Share knowledge and experience amongst beekeepers
- Work to trial and develop novel beekeeping methods that support honeybees and ecosystem health.
- Commit to producing authentic, unadulterated, and uncontaminated honey and comb.
- Pay a fair price to beekeepers for regenerative management.
- Provide safe working conditions for all employees.
- Provide transparency throughout production and processing.
Regenerative Apiculture is beekeeping that measurably improves the health and resilience of honeybees, generates positive interactions between honeybees and surrounding ecosystems, supports beekeeper livelihoods, and enables human food systems, and the biosphere to thrive.
Our suppliers and producers commit to working toward improving the health, vitality, and capacity of all stakeholders in the system.
Pass the Honey’s Beekeeper Producers are Committed to the following:
- Employ regenerative beekeeping principles in approach to beekeeping.
- Complete an annual reporting survey on key indicators in the areas of honeybee health, ecosystem health, and beekeeper livelihood. The survey will require beekeepers to keep basic records of production quantities and hive health.
- Beekeepers agree to keep records that will enable them to complete the survey with accuracy.
- Beekeepers agree to keep accurate records and honestly report survey responses.
- Beekeepers agree to provide PTH documentation to support their survey responses upon request.
- Beekeepers agree to provide PTH with full transparency and documentation of beekeeping practices and apiary locations upon request.
- Beekeepers agree to receive PTH or third-party audits of apiaries, forage areas, and processing facilities as requested by PTH.
- Beekeepers adhere to Pass the Honey’s Regenerative Beekeeping Standards of production.
- Beekeepers commit to working towards improving outcomes in the areas of honeybee health, beekeeper livelihood, and ecosystem health.
As if Pass the Honey wasn’t serious enough about the integrity and adherence to these regenerative principles, we also use advanced testing methods to test for adulteration, contamination, and authenticity of the honey we source. We use methods such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) testing and Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) to test honeybee products for:
- Direct adulteration by: syrups, dilution, ultrafiltration, heating
- Indirect adulteration by: feeding of sugar water, syrups or other nectar substitutes to honeybees
- Contamination from antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other industrial contaminants
- Authenticity of origin
- Harvest time: test reveal if honey was harvested early
Test results showing any adulteration or contamination levels above approved thresholds is cause for Pass the Honey to reject and return the product back to the supplier.
To further qualify our beekeeper producers, they must agree to adhere to Pass the Honey’s Minimum Beekeeping Standards of Production AND to work towards improving outcomes in the areas of honeybee health, beekeeper livelihoods, and ecosystem health.
Regenerative Beekeeping Production Standards:
- ⏴Forage Area
Hives are kept in areas with access to high quality and abundant year round forage that is absent of applications of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and industrial contamination.
In order to ensure honeybee products are not contaminated, it is recommended to keep hives in a location with a forage area of 3 kilometer / 1.8 mile radius free from contaminants including herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or industrial contamination. This area must not be subject to significant sources of pollution from agriculture, roads, industry or urban centers.
At the end of a production season, the hives must be left with reserves of honey and pollen sufficiently abundant to survive the period without nectar/honeydew.
If beekeepers deem it is necessary to supplementally feed bees to maintain their health or due to a disturbance in local forage resources, honey bees may be fed supplemental feed after honey harvest. Permitted feeds include: Honey, sugar water, sucrose, fructose, and glucose are allowed.
The producer must not provide supplemental feed less than 15 days prior to placement of bee product collection equipment.
Beekeepers should aim for their operations to contribute to locally adapted, disease-resistant bee breeding and must raise their own bees or purchase from local breeders when possible.
Breeders supplying bees must breed honey bees for resistance to diseases.
- ⏴Pest and disease control
- Beekeepers must use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and have a preventative pest control plan.
- IPM plans should seek to minimize the use of chemical treatments and antibiotics and to eliminate their use when possible.
- Beekeepers must have a varroa mite prevention and control strategy.
- If hives need to be treated with allowed substances for pest or disease control, beekeepers must follow the label's application rates and withdrawal times.
- Formic Acid use allowed for use as a pesticide to control varroa mites solely within honeybee hives, after the last honey harvest; discontinue 30 days prior to the addition of bee product harvest equipment.
- Oxalic acid use allowed after the last honey harvest; discontinue 30 days prior to addition of bee product harvest equipment. The need must be documented and approved prior to use.
- ⏴Prohibited substances
Prohibited substances include:
- Coumaphos (CheckMite+)
- Fluvalinate (Apistan, Mavrik)
- Amitraz (Miticur, TakTic, Mitac)
- Fenpyroximate (Hivastan)
Beekeepers may relocate hives for pollination purposes or services IF forage areas meet the forage area guideline suggested above and the pollination activities support the health of honeybees.
Wax foundations or starter strips must be obtained from uncontaminated beeswax produced from wax cappings only. The beekeeper must show the origin of the wax foundation if purchased.
- ⏴Hive Material
Hives should be constructed of natural materials such as wood, straw or clay.
- ⏴Record keeping
Beekeepers must keep records according to PTH's "Beekeeping Record Keeping Template" which includes records of all hive locations, pest outbreaks, and hive treatments that may be available to PTH on request.
- ⏴Prohibited activities
The use of chemical repellents and killing the bees to facilitate honey harvesting is forbidden.
The killing of bees after harvest is forbidden except in the case of severe disease. Humane euthanasia is allowed for bees that will not survive.
- ⏴Comb honey standards
- Use a queen excluder to prevent the queen from laying in the honey super / brood from developing in frames that will be used for comb honey.
- Comb supers should be added early in the season to catch strong honey flows, and removed directly after capping.
- All comb honey must be frozen either after harvest (within 48 hours) or after cutting to freeze eggs of pests.
- Care must be taken during cutting, packaging and transport to prevent squashing / breaking open of cells.
- ⏴Standards consulted in developing PTH's Standards
Through extensive research, understanding the current state of our honey industry, and the passion to do better for our ecosystem, Pass the Honey is creating a category that takes apiculture practices beyond sustainability. Awareness about honeybee health and honey fraud [link to honey fraud - Nav1 P3] has sparked conversation and controversy about apiculture, our food system, and conventional agricultural practices.
The complexity of these issues collided when we set out to source honeycomb. While many beekeepers use methods touted as sustainable, it quickly became clear that sustaining the current state of affairs was not a responsible approach.
Sustainable practices only maintain existing conditions. Improvement is not an objective. Pass the Honey does not want to support a system that is failing pollinators and threatening our climate and food security, thus regenerative has proven to be the only way forward.
With the help of the regenerative design experts at Terra Genesis International (TGI), Pass the Honey developed a matrix that outlines degenerative, sustainable, and regenerative apiculture practices.
We hold our beekeepers to a higher standard, and we compensate above market rate for their commitment to our regenerative practices.
Our model also provides stability to those beekeepers. We want to develop relationships and create legacy and change within ecosystems. This goes back to our company essence: Evolving apiary practices and ecological diversity beyond what's perceived possible; To co-create with bees and beekeepers.
To really evolve aviary practices, we need to compensate beekeepers fairly and educate them in practices that enhance ecological diversity. We partner with and support the beekeepers who produce our honeycomb in using a regenerative approach to beekeeping that benefits honeybee health and beekeeper livelihoods. We are actively working to build a global network of regenerative beekeepers who produce our honeycomb.
We are working hard to forage regenerative honeycomb worldwide by developing standards and verification processes for regenerative honey in partnership with stakeholders throughout the beekeeping and regenerative agriculture.
Some might look at our regenerative standards and assume our work is done, but we’re just getting started. Currently, the most concrete definition of regenerative agriculture involves loose guidelines that only some academics and practitioners agree on. These principles don’t encapsulate the nuances involved in beekeeping, leaving apiarists to fend for themselves. Stack on a changing climate and widespread use of apitoxic chemicals, and the situation for bees and beekeepers has quickly become dire.
There are still many questions to be answered when it comes to clearly defining regenerative apiculture. Through our Regenerative Apiculture Working Group [link to RAWG part of website - Nav2 P8], we intend to further our understanding of the co-benefits of bees and pollinators on ecosystems and observe our regenerative standards in motion in various environments. This will help us shape regenerative standards even further that beekeepers can then use to produce high-quality honey and honeycomb in a way that restores nature and bee populations globally.