Like honey, love the bees


January 23, 2014

Most of us probably like honey and may pick up a bottle periodically at the grocery. Hopefully, it is one from a local beekeeper. I’ve been somewhat interested in beekeeping since childhood. A neighbor of my grandparent’s in Shelby County Kentucky had a number of bee hives on his property. As a youngster they intrigued me. My grandparents used the honey for a variety of sweetening purposes including in hot tea. My favorite was over grandmother’s fresh baked biscuits still warm from the oven.

I’ve also been involved with the removal of a couple of bee swarms from around the Jamestown area. It was good to see local keepers come and remove the immediate problem swarm. It was even better knowing the bees were moving to an environment where they can, hopefully, thrive. Bees are threatened with a variety of problems.

The number of honeybees in the United States has drastically declined. The largest and probably most reported of these problems is called the Sudden Colony Collapse Disorder. Researchers around the world continue to work on this problem. They are investigating various mites such as the Varrona mites, pesticide use and other potential sources. It seems there is a long list of what can go wrong for the bees.

Bees provide many benefits beyond just honey. They are a critical link in the pollination of agricultural crops, especially fruit and vegetables. Christina Kennedy, Senior Scientist, The Nature Conservancy’s Development by Design program wrote, ” Bees may seem like uninvited guests at your picnic – but before you shoo them away from the fruit salad, think twice, as they play a critical role in making your picnic possible.

Some of the most healthful, picnic favorites – including blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber, avocados and almonds – would not make it to the table without the essential work by bees. Most crops depend on pollinating insects to produce seeds or fruits.”

Our excursion into the world of beekeeping began in earnest about a year ago. I had little knowledge on how to approach beekeeping. Enter Mr. Bill Starrett, a local expert and speaker with the Greene County Beekeeping Association. I heard him speak but unfortunately had already missed out on the beginning beekeeping classes.

I explained that I would like an opportunity to learn more, perhaps play an apprentice role with a local beekeeper, before jumping totally into the endeavor. He had the perfect solution pairing me with Mr. John Nehrbass. Nehrbass was looking for a place closer to home than Hillsboro to keep some hives. We struck a mutually beneficial working relationship.

My son provided a place in the corner of his pasture and hay field near a woods and an old orchard. It’s nearly a perfect place for the bees. We added some wind breaks to protect the two hives that Nehrbass brought. Nehrbass explained the terminology, the tools and showed us the basic maintenance of the hives.

The bees have done quite nicely in their new home. The honey production was good and the hives are healthy. Later in the year, we had an opportunity to obtain two hives. After inspection to ensure the bees were healthy, those hives were also moved to the same area. The hives are located about 150-yards from the back deck of the house. The bees have not presented any issues with the human use of the backyard. They are perfectly content to do their thing while we do whatever else. We have learned a lot this past year about bees

We are now registered for the upcoming beekeeping class. We are eager to increase our knowledge of beekeeping and even to expand the hives. While the bees require some amount of attention especially in the spring for housecleaning, the summer to add the honey supers to the hives, during harvest and to ensure they are properly closed for the winter, beekeeping is not a labor intensive effort. The cost to get started has been fairly minimal for us.

Of course we are still accumulating some of our equipment. Some equipment can be made rather than purchased which not only keeps the cost down but adds to the fun of beekeeping.

The Greene County Beekeepers is active in all aspects related to keeping bees. Their meetings provide knowledgeable speakers and experienced keepers who can answer a wide range of questions. The members range from seasoned veterans such as Starrett down to the beginners like me. Everyone is made welcome. My son and I are really looking forward to the beginning classes and meeting other folks new to beekeeping.

The Greene County Parks and Trails is offering a Beginner Beekeeping Class on Thursdays in February and March at the Narrows Reserve Nature Center from 7-8:30 p.m. For registration or more information call Parks & Trails 937-562-6440 or online www.gcparkstrails.com/.