NPR – The Colony-Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They’re complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.
The Fargo attorney lost hives in his first two years as a novice beekeeper. With nine hives now established near his home and a couple of University of Minnesota bee classes under his belt, he feels like he’s got the hang of it, although it’s still a challenge.
Every two weeks, he opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees’ blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.
Attorney and hobby beekeeper Jonathan Garaas Dan Gunderson | MPR News
“You can get the book learning. You can see the YouTubes. You can be told by others,” he said, but “you have to have hands-on experience. When you start putting it all together, it now starts making sense.”
Scientists wish every beginner beekeeper was as diligent.
While experts welcome the rising national interest in beekeeping as a hobby, they warn novices may be inadvertently putting their hives — and hives for miles around — in danger because they aren’t keeping the bee mite population in check.
Many hobbyists avoid mite treatments, preferring a natural approach, but that’s often a deadly decision for the bees, said University of Minnesota bee expert Marla Spivak.
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Hiving my first package of honey bees. This is quite the experience the first time you do it! Season 1: Episode 1.
HEBRON – His flat hive tool in hand, Keith Crigger slowly and meticulously scraped bee glue, known as propolis, from a new beehive box on Randy Merrell’s farm near Hebron.
Crigger pried open the top box and judiciously lifted and inspected each frame. He was vigilant in returning each one in the same order. Bees are clean and orderly.
“See the caps?” his wife Lori Crigger asked standing from a distance. “This hive, which was added in April, is going to produce some honey this year.”
Keith and Lori Crigger are beekeepers that harvest honey from hives on six farms in Boone, Grant, Kenton and Gallatin counties. They sell their Crigger Farm honey products in 45 retail shops across the commonwealth and at local farmers markets.
But the honey business that keeps Keith working full-time in his retirement started as a hobby seven years ago.
Beekeeping is a pastime that more people across Northern Kentucky are adding to their lives. Residents are placing bee boxes in their backyards and joining the increasing number of beekeeper groups, like the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Association which meets once a month.
Conservationists are delighted.
In the past decade, the honeybee population hit an all-time low. There are many theories about why the number plummeted. The abundant use of pesticides and disease are popular ones.
Honeybee numbers are back on the rise, thanks to those who are putting on their bee suits and building hives.
“I think more people are realizing the importance of bees in the pollination of plants,” said Jerry Brown, Boone County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.