When most people hear a buzzing sound, they may begin to panic in fear of being stung. However, honeybees are not harmful. Bees pollinate plants and play an important role in providing us with one out of every three bites of food.
So why all this buzz? June is the official start of National Pollinator Month. In addition to pollinator season, June 17 through June 23 is National Pollinator Week, which celebrates pollinators across the country.
Earlier this year, Beth Farrell and her husband Kevin started a bee hive. They became interested in bees through a pollinator program at their local garden supply store, and the good of adding bees to their blueberry farm, Pack House Farm.
“At the farm, the bees are free to forage wherever they want, but we have seen them on the blueberry flowers earlier this spring and lately on the blackberry bushes. They really worked on the blackberry flowers,” Beth said.
Surrounding the bee hive are poplar trees, where they like to forage as well.
Beth and Kevin have two hives, one at their farm in Chatham County and the other a mile from their home in Cary as part of Host-A-Hive Program through Garden Supply Company. Garden Supply Company provides tools and education for beginning beekeepers.
The hives are Langstroth Hives, consisting of two to three wooden boxes stacked up on top of each other. Inside each box are 10 plastic frames where the bees live and work. Each hive holds about 60,000 to 65,000 bees.
“All our bees are the same species of honey bees. They are not native to America, they are an Italian breed,” Kevin said. “Our queen bee is named Beeatrice,” added Beth. Beth has an understanding with her bees… if they don’t sting her, she won’t bother them.
The Farrells have marked their queen with paint to symbolize how old she is by using the international code. This helps beekeepers know how long their queen has lived. Queens typically live for two to three years. “The international code consists of five colors, symbolizing the last digit of the year. White or gray are for years ending in 1 or 6; Yellow, ending in 2 or 7; Red, 3 or 8; Green 4 or 9; and Blue 5 or 0,” Kevin said.
Beth and Kevin check on their bees every nine to 12 days. During this check, they look to make sure the hive appears healthy, is free if disease and pest, and check to make sure Beeatrice is doing well. Once a year, they extract honey from the frames using a honey extractor. This device removes the honey while keeping the majority honeycomb intact. The device works as a centrifuge, flinging the honey out while it spins. “We were able to get about 60 pounds of honey this spring,” Beth said.
While the bees are still making honey, the Farrells do not anticipate harvesting more this year. The honey the bees are storing now will be used as food for the bees as blooming season begins to conclude and winter approaches.
Because the Farrells are new to beekeeping, they plan on selling only a small amount of honey this year. The Farrells plan on moving their hive from Cary to the farm and expanding production next year. They also plan on opening the farm to the public for fun and fruit picking in 2020.