Renowned beekeeper in Oxford expands operation

Sarah Eames | The Daily StarJeff Barnes, director of education at Kutik's Everything Bees, points out a group of bees drinking from a pond on the Oxford property Wednesday.

OXFORD — Expansion is underway at a Chenango County apiary with more than four decades in the business.

Stacks of pastel-colored wooden crates, each containing several frames of honeycomb, dot the 20-acre property nestled between state Route 12 and the banks of the Chenango River in Oxford, the home of Kutik’s Everything Bees.

“We have a penchant for honeybees, but we support other local pollinators as well,” said Jeff Barnes, director of education.

Large gravel expanses throughout the property will soon be transformed into a pollinator sanctuary — complete with flowers, butterflies and all manner of bees — that the owners hope will become a community picnic spot with ponds, footbridges, paths and benches.

The company was founded in 1978 by Chuck Kutik, who was gifted two beehives for Christmas and “fell in love,” according to Barnes.

Because bees thrive in temperatures above 40 degrees, Kutik had a hard time wintering his colony up north, Barnes said, so he purchased property in South Carolina and moved the production down there.

Many of the hives are brought back in the spring to pollinate apple crops in the Lake Ontario orchard belt and to produce honey in the Mohawk Valley region, Barnes said. In 2001, Kutik expanded his pollination services to cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber and squash farms in the south.

“There are very few people like Chuck,” Barnes said. “He’s kind of a celebrity beekeeper.”

Chuck and his wife, Karen, attend several conferences and trade shows throughout the year and are well-respected in the industry, Barnes said.

The Kutiks own about 10,000 hives within a five-hour radius, with outposts in Otsego, Schoharie, Greene and Hamilton counties and as far as St. Lawrence, Barnes said.

“We call ourselves the largest small apiary in New York,” he said.

Last month, the company cut the ribbon on a new extracting facility, Barnes said. The 15,000-square-foot warehouse contains thousands of wooden beekeeping boxes ready to be shipped out across the state, as well as the machinery used to draw honey from the comb.

Dubbed “the Cadillac of extractors,” the monster piece of equipment can process up to 125 frames of honeycomb at a time and produce 50 barrels — 32,500 pounds — of honey a day, according to Barnes.

Work at the company’s headquarters is focused mainly on rearing queen bees, which act as the nucleus of a colony, Barnes said.

Kutik’s sold the most nucleus colonies — also known as nucs — in the state this year, and the company’s particular breed of queen, the K9, is highly sought after for its mite-resistant stock, Barnes said.

The company regularly partners with Cornell and other beekeepers in the area, offering beekeeping workshops and classes for as little as $10 and supplies and equipment at the company store, which just opened its doors in December, Barnes said.

The store also sells books, jewelry and locally made candles, soaps and other beeswax products, as well as bee-themed clothing and home decor, Barnes said, because “people who love bees really love bees.”

The company emphasizes community outreach, partnering with local groups like the Chenango Arts Council, hosting tours and donating items for local basket raffles.

Barnes said he recently donated three hives to the local 4-H chapter, along with suits, equipment and bees for aspiring young beekeepers.

“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” Barnes said.

Kutik’s Everything Bees store is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 607-843-2337 or visit kutiks.com.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.