VIEWS: 14 PAGES: 6 CATEGORY: Home & Garden POSTED ON: 10/23/2011
Article published in Princeton Magazine titled "Bees Knees" about beekeeping and how one person started and in 4 years had a small honey business. Some references to the plight of honey bees in the US and the world over.
S U M M E R 20 1 1 RepRinted with peRmission ©2011 pRinceton magazine 30 | PRINCETON MAGAZINE SUMMER 2011 BY DILSHANIE PERERA • PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM GRIMES Whether you are a honey aficionado or “Beekeeping is a commonality that binds weren’t any bees around and decided to simply have strong opinions about the us together,” Schuler remarked, calling investigate. His query involved many genus Apis, there’s something undeniably the community “a great bunch.” internet searches and phone calls, finally interesting about bees. From the way they The way Schuler speaks about bees leading to Schuler, who encouraged Guidi structure their hives to their unique conveys a mixture of respect and awe. to take his beginning beekeeping class genetics to the subtle way they indicate Bee colonies are structured such that each that year. the health of their wider environment, member has a specific task that “It was purely serendipity,” Guidi said honeybees could very well be New contributes to the well-being of the hive of his entry into beekeeping. It started Jersey’s sweetest insect. and Schuler sees worker bees as always with the course, during which he met With over 700 bee enthusiasts acting “for the betterment of their other beekeepers who had come to the throughout the state ranging from families...it’s an awesome model for the class based on experiences in their own commercial to small-time beekeepers, way humans could get along.” gardens. That year, the state made small the practice has seen challenges over grants of $300 to people who were the past three decades as well as trouble interested in starting up their own hives. from parasites and pesticides. Guidi used $100 to purchase a colony of Nonetheless, beekeepers are a lively HONEY IS THE bees and the remaining money to outfit bunch, committed to their brood and himself with woodware, that is, bee boxes tending to their pollinators. ONLY FOOD THAT and frames. New Jersey has a statewide DOESN’T SPOIL Guidi now has over 60 hives. About 15 Beekeepers Association, a club and are nestled into his garden in Hillsborough, meeting place for those tending AS LONG AS IT IS which he affectionately calls Bamboo honeybees, and at the governmental level, Hollow, and the others are in various State Apiarist Tim Schuler is in charge of KEPT IN A SEALED locations throughout the area, including all of the bees in the Garden State. CONTAINER. Eno Terra’s organic acre in Kingston, Describing his primary responsibilities residential properties in Princeton, private as inspecting honeybee hives throughout areas near open space, and even historic New Jersey for diseases and parasites, Rockingham, where George Washington educating beekeepers about proper In addition to producing honey, bees g set up his headquarters during the methods and management, addressing do work as pollinators. If not for these Revolutionary War. specific municipal problems, and winged creatures buzzing around What began as a hobby for Guidi, checking colonies that come into the state gathering pollen and flitting from flower ears, a software engineer for 30 years, for pollination services, Schuler is in high to flower, we wouldn’t see any fruits and thing transformed itself into something demand and constantly on the go. He’s most vegetables, because the trees, is he clearly finds gratifying. His hives been beekeeping since he was 12 years shrubs, and vines that produce them are w produce enough honey to allow for a old. Working in the Department of primarily pollinated through bees. modest business and maintaining thng the Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health roduct bee colonies themselves. The product is for about 20 years, he has focused on KEEPING THE BEES y, n natural, raw, unprocessed honey, and apiary for the past five. m he labels each bottle with the name of If tending to the state’s bees isn’t In the springtime a few years ago, Pier the town the hive it came from. His enough, Schuler also teaches an Guidi noticed that the 16 fruit trees he had Princeton Honey originates from hives undergraduate course at Rutgers, as well planted in his backyard were no longer within four miles of downtown and as a beginning beekeeping workshop for yielding a harvest after flowering. Upon can be found in the Whole Earth those interested in taking up the practice. closer inspection, he realized that there Center when in season. SUMMER 2011 PRINCETON MAGAZINE | 37 RepRinted with peRmission ©2011 pRinceton magazine 30 | PRINCETON MAGAZINE SUMMER 2011 When placing bee boxes, Guidi looks natural antimicrobial properties, Guidi COLONY STRUCTURE for areas away from pesticides and pointed out. Honey is the only food that herbicides, which often interfere with bee doesn’t spoil as long as it is kept in a A healthy colony consists of between development. Thus, non-organic farms sealed container. 30,000 and 60,000 bees, and when are usually not tenable for beekeeping, When beekeepers extract honey, they beekeepers order a package of honeybees, and cornfields are particularly typically take the frames where the bees they typically get 9,000 to 10,000 unattractive. have built their honeycombs out of the or about three pounds of bees. Bees can fly up to two or three miles bee boxes and slice away the wax caps While pointing out that hives have when foraging for nectar and pollen, and before putting the frames into special a seamless, highly regimented structure, Guidi acknowledged that it is difficult to centrifuges to spin out the honey. After a Guidi explained that based on the size, find locations in New Jersey that are three quick filtering through a stainless steel sex, and age of the bee, one can know miles away from a cornfield. He seeks out mesh, the honey is ready to be bottled exactly what their job is in a given open space, meadows, and locations near and consumed. colony. public parks in order to set up hives, and Guidi noted that a typical hive in New As the matriarch of the group, the almost everyone Guidi has reached out to Jersey can produce about 20 to 30 pounds queen bee is tasked with all the over the years has been enthusiastic about of honey per year, and that approximately reproductive duties. In the spring and having bees on their land. 60 to 70 pounds of honey need to be left early summer, she can lay up to 2,000 “I look for trees and what’s growing in the hive so that the colony can feed on eggs a day, which grow into bees and there,” Guidi said of ideal sites for bees. it to survive during the winter. Due to the populate the hive. The queen is larger Black locust trees, Autumn and Russian fluctuating temperatures over the early than regular worker bees, and is fiercely Olive trees, fields of dandelions, clover spring, as well as the density of protected by the colony, which could not and “anything that blooms naturally,” are development in the state and the tendency survive without her, since she is the only all ideal for honeybees. toward monoculture crops, the yield on one that can regenerate it. She lives honey production is somewhat low. Other between two and five years, and mates HONEY locations in the country can produce only once on her “maiden flight.” more; for instance, Florida’s honey A virgin queen will leave the hive While being delicious for humans, honey season is almost year-round, and parts of on such a journey, mate with six to ten is food for bees too. They collect nectar Vermont can harbor hives that produce up drones, or male bees, whose sole purpose and stir it together with enzymes in their to 120 pounds of honey per season. it is to mate with a queen, she will then tiny stomachs before regurgitating the “I try to limit [the extraction process] store their sperm for the rest of her life. mixture back up into the cells of their to one time over the season. In New When she lays fertilized eggs, they all honeycomb, which is made out of wax. Jersey the foraging for nectar and pollen develop into female worker bees that are The water content of the bee vomit is starts up in March and usually ends by the sterile. Most members of a hive are such usually too high to be the honey that we end of June, Guidi said. Our flowering worker bees. But when she lays eat, so the bees fan the liquid to reduce its season is short, but it may start up again unfertilized eggs, those larvae turn into moisture levels and when the water in September. I usually extract honey male drones, which only carry the queen’s content is reduced to 17 percent, they around the end of July,” he added, careful genes. A typical hive may have about create a cap on the cells with more wax so to note that when growing a new colony 1,000 drones. no more moisture can get in or out. he never extracts from them in the first Within three days, the eggs hatch and The low moisture levels and the year. “I let the bees enjoy themselves and turns into larvae, which collectively are high pH of honey is what gives it its build up their family.” called the brood. These pre-bees grow SUMMER 2011 PRINCETON MAGAZINE | 39 RepRinted with peRmission ©2011 pRinceton magazine 40 | PRINCETON MAGAZINE SUMMER 2011 inside the cells of the honeycomb itself, “Based on my readings, I would say which is used to gestate and raise young that 80 percent or more of feral, or wild, bees, as well as to store honey, where honeybees are just gone,” Guidi said bees get their carbohydrates, and pollen, somberly. And beehives managed by which provides other nutrients. The beekeepers face the same troubles too. young bees’ first task is to take care of the Schuler agreed that “we’ve been new eggs and larvae by feeding them and having serious issues,” observing that in cleaning the cells and then capping them 2009-2010, the state saw a winter death to allow the pupae to grow. They produce loss of 35 percent, and 37 percent in the wax and create a honeycomb filled with previous year. “Before the mites came, perfectly hexagonally-shaped cells. As people would average around five they grow older, they also police the hive, percent loss.” protecting it from invaders, and by the Beekeepers can treat populations time they are about 17 to 19 days old, the affected by Varroa destructor and other worker bees go outside the hive to forage diseases with chemicals that are on the for nectar and pollen. market, or by swapping in different Guidi noted that worker bees have a species of bees that may be better six-week lifespan in the summer, wherein equipped to handle pests, but “there’s no “they literally work themselves to death.” magic bullet,” Guidi acknowledged. Whereas in the winter, workers can live for three to four months. During the A BEE’S LIFE colder months, worker bees deplete the population by getting rid of the drones, Despite the challenges, bees in New pushing them out of the colony’s home, Jersey that can survive our typical winter and then clustering around the queen to of temperature fluctuations, are usually keep her warm. Her temperature needs to hardy strains, and Guidi mentioned that remain a constant 93 degrees for her to Jersey “survivor queens,” that is, those survive and they all feed on the honey they that made it through the winter, are have stored to last them through that time. “highly-prized.” If the queen is injured or is unable to North American bees derive from a produce eggs at a rate sufficient to sustain few different European strains, with those the beehive, the entire colony makes a harboring Italian genetics evincing the decision to replace her by choosing typically golden color. Commercial between six and a dozen newly fertilized beekeepers tend to have such species, and eggs and feed the newborn larvae a some have between 2,000 and 4,000 high-protein mixture called “royal jelly.” hives. At such a scale, the goal isn’t The new virgin queens begin to develop honey production, but instead pollination and the first one out emerges, kills the services. Hives are trucked down to South other queen-candidates, and leaves on her Jersey to pollinate the blueberry crop maiden flight, hopefully to return having there, and some are taken as far as Florida mated with drones from outside and to during the orange bloom, or even begin her task of laying eggs. California. Bees are also essential to the flower- CHALLENGES producing industry. Our lives are intertwined with those of bees in myriad ways. Aside from the various factors that could “One out of every three spoonfuls that impede the hive (if the new queen go into your mouth wouldn’t be there didn’t come back from her first flight, if not for honeybees,” Schuler for instance), pollinator populations acknowledged. “And oftentimes it’s the worldwide have been dealing with highlight of your food consumption,” various troubles since the mid-1980s. he said, listing “the finer things in life,” Varroa mites, whose scientific including blueberries, cranberries, nomenclature is, aptly, Varroa destructor, cucumbers, watermelons, squashes, are parasitic to bee colonies, attaching apples, and oranges, among other fruits. themselves to larvae, pupae and adults. Bee’s knees, indeed. Worse, they are disease vectors, thus exposing hives to other diseases, mites, and infections. These pests, as well as the increased use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, has made healthy life difficult for honeybees. SUMMER 2011 PRINCETON MAGAZINE | 41
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