Friday, January 27, 2017

Bittersweet goodbye to backyard beekeeping By Lorraine Glowczak

Many readers have been wondering, so it’s time for me to spill the beans. It is with some sadness that I will be bidding farewell to my aviary endeavor. Although backyard beekeeping had been a dream of mine for a long time, I have discovered that, simply put, beekeeping is not for me. I discovered that I just don’t have the time to give them the attention they need.

But despite the fact that I decided not to keep up with my grandfather’s successful run with his bee hobby, I learned very much from my “sweet little Italians”, as I always liked to refer to them as. I also have very fond memories at giving this quasi-homestead undertaking a whirl. As I look back over this past spring and summer, there are a few highlights to share.

I remember that early spring day in late April when they arrived from Georgia and the excitement I felt when I drove to Cooper Charolais Farm & Apiary in Windham to pick them up. Buzz and Paula Cooper, the friendly owners, greeted me with as much excitement as I must have expressed. They took time to share a few last minute and helpful reminders on what to do as I prepared to put them in their new hive. The enthusiasm didn’t stop when I left the Cooper farm. I was eagerly greeted by my husband as well as a few of my next door neighbors as they welcomed the 10,000 Italian bees to the

I recall the surprise at just how gentle the bees were. At first. They were so gentle; I didn’t even have to wear gloves. They would lightly land on my fingers as if they were introducing themselves, making me fall in love with them immediately. But then, they got older. The hive started to fill up with more young babies (known as larvae.) Those sweet little Italians became a little more protective of their young and my free-spirited love for the bees quickly turned to honorable respect after getting stung 5 times my right hand. I wore gloves after that. 

Or the time, during my weekly hive check in late summer when I was shocked to discover they were eating away at their own larvae, creating a huge hole in the frame. Per the direction I had received from other, more experienced beekeepers, I had stopped feeding them sugar syrup by mid-June believing the nectar and pollen in the wild was enough. Often, it is, but this past summer’s drought challenged their food supply. I began to feed them sugar syrup once again and immediately the honeybees built up their frames and continued to lay eggs. I was amazed they could bounce back so quickly.

I put them “to bed” for the winter in late October upon my return trip from Italy. They seemed happy and healthy, ready to face the long cold Maine winter. Although I am letting go of the adventure of beekeeping, I am concerned about their winter journey and hope they make it through. If they do, I will have some bees to sell this spring.

Thank you to all my loyal readers. It was fun sharing my adventure with you. A special thanks goes to Buzz, Paula, and Mark Cooper for always patiently being there during panic text messages and phone calls, always happily answering my questions with ease. And, I cannot forget to mention my good friend, Alissa Feinberg. Without her assistance, my beekeeping adventure would not have been as much fun.

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