The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

September 29, 2012

What's the buzz?

Hives offer farming, learning opportunity, local beekeepers say

By Wanda Callagy
The Daily Star

---- — Folks say nothing is sweeter than honey.

And for many reasons, the trend of beekeeping and making honey and other products is growing.

Some folks do it for the enjoyment of providing a good environment for these interesting, productive insects. Some do it for profit, and others have invested time to learn some of the basics to keep a hive and to pollinate their fruit trees, and the rest of the planet.

Novices have a variety of sources to learn from — resource books are plentiful in the library and bookstore, and often local nature facilities offer bee-keeping clinics offering info at the numerous levels. There are beekeeping associations and source pages on the Internet.  There are classes to advise which flowers to grow, or how to branch off into candlemaking, honey’s medicinal uses, and thousands of recipes. There kits and and ideas to make beekeeping easy for just about anyone whose interest is sparked.

The best knowledge comes from the actual act of starting the process.

Jason Connelly and Sarah Hansen have had a hive in Stamford for about a year. 

Their interest is two-fold.

“I simply wanted honey,”  Hansen said. “We bought this acre primarily for the bees ... I love it.”

”I wanted to learn about the process too,” Connelly said.  “It is also important for the antique apple trees I have on the property ... for the bees to keep pollinating them. I took a beginner class at the Delaware County Cooperative Extension, and ... we both have ... done a lot of reading on the topic.”

Their hive originated from Georgia, but in May they had to start fresh, as their queen had died. By late September, the hive has flourished, and they are looking forward to harvesting some honey and expanding their count. They built their hive from a kit, and have an electric fence to keep unwanted visitors away from the box. They have a routine set and observe them regularly in Harpersfield.

Bill Parker of Horton Hill Farm in Jefferson has been beekeeping for 10 years. His bees are feasting on aster and goldenrod pollen now, and making plenty of honey. From the family farm, the family sells raw honey. The bees are local, gathered from trees and a local barn rafter. Through the years, he has split colonies, and relocated them to better spots.

”I will get a call ... and we will go retrieve a swarm,” Parker said. “I also see their pollination effect on my apple trees here at the farm, and enjoy these bees for all that they do.”

He doesn’t keep all the bees for himself, either; Parker said he recently got a call from a man in Charlotteville seeking his help. 

”I am going to split one of my hives for him, and take that over,” Parker said. “You learn alot from each other.”

Fall is harvesting time for the beekeeper, and time to go through the boxes, making sure the nests will be dry and will hold the food the bees will need for winter.

Though the bees get quiet at this time of year, Parker said, he can see his bees buzzing in and out, over the pond. His 10 hives face the afternoon sun and stay warm in the winter months.

From colony behavior to learning about the health benefits of honey, the topic of bee-keeping offers many learning paths. 

For example, Hanson said she learned the hard way that her bees don’t care for banana. Parker said he has learned something new about bees, keeping up with his 10 hives every day.

They all agree that their interest has grown and are proud to be part of the beekeeping community.

”How neat is that,” Parker said, “to see such an interesting insect make food.”