Wayne Township couple do part to keep honey bees happy, healthy

May 1, 2013

From: Republican Herald




Troy and Wendy Jochems wanted to help the bees.


The Wayne Township couple admit they didn’t know much about beekeeping but wanted to do their part after watching a movie called “Vanishing of the Bees.”


“It basically explained problems with the colony collapse disorder,” Troy said.


“Plus with the lavender we had, so many bees were already kind of here,” Wendy said.


The couple own Hope Hill Lavender Farm, Wayne Township, where they sell the lavender for many uses. They bought the farm in 2004 and planted their 1,500 lavender bushes on Memorial Day of 2011.


Colony disorder


Colony collapse disorder, first reported in 2006, is a decrease in the number of bees, with the queen and minimal or no adult bees present in the hive.


Data from a June 2012 Colony Collapse Steering Committee report from the Agricultural Research Service, a department of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said about 22 percent of managed honey bee colonies suffered losses from October 2011 to April 2012. On average since reporting took place, about 33 percent are attributable to CCD, which has no exact known cause.


Thomas M. Butzler, horticulture educator with the Penn State Extension, Clinton County, said the concern for bees is real.


“About a third of the colonies don’t make it through the winter” for a variety of reasons, he said.


The Varroa mite is also is also a threat to honey bees. The mite is problematic for several reasons, including that it transmits viruses to the honey bees, he said.


“It’s like a tick on a human body,” Butzler said, adding that the mite sucks blood from the bee.


Getting started


The Jochemses spoke to Dave Moyer, 74, of Schuylkill Haven, a local commercial beekeeper in Schuylkill Haven. Later, they purchased bees that were shipped from Georgia. Troy estimates he has thousands of bees.


Both said the goal is to “keep them (the bees) happy and alive,” and they also harvest the honey.


Harvesting the honey is also possible, they said.


Troy said April 21 honey is evident in the frames but “they don’t start getting quality honey until the nectar on the flowers starts,” something that is up to Mother Nature.


Troy said he believes the bees are happy because “they would be a lot more aggressive when you’re around them if they are not happy.”


The Jochems both have been stung by bees.


“It wasn’t the end of the world. I felt bad for the bee ’cause the bee dies,” Wendy said.


The couple change the bees’ sugar water every other day, which the bees use as a saliva to draw out the honeycomb where the queen lays her eggs.


All about bees


“About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination,” according to U.S. Department of Agricultural Research Services website at www.ars.usda.gov


“The diversity of food on our plate would be greatly diminished,” Butzler said.


Butzler said the honey bees that people keep are not native to the United States. They originate from Europe, he said, something the ARS confirmed.


“Most of our native species are solitary bees,” meaning the female bee lives alone and lays her eggs, he said, adding, “They’re not living in a colony,”


They still pollinate but because of their sheer numbers, honey bees are more effective, Butzler said. The bees pollinate food such as cucumbers, apple, pumpkins and other crops.


Moyer has about 100 bee colonies in different areas of Schuylkill County, including Pine Grove and Orwigsburg.


“I’ve been sort of keeping bees for 30 years,” he said.


His affinity for bees started when he was young because he was raised on a farm where he often saw bees.


“The honey bee is definitely a key part of our agriculture,” he said. “A healthy hive of bees needs between 60 to 80 pounds of honey to survive.”


Bees are important in nature, he said, adding that the “honey bee is probably the least understood insect or animal” because people don’t understand their role and think all bees are alike.


Moyer is also a member of the Berks and Schuylkill Bee Keepers Association, which has 18 or 20 members in Schuylkill County.


“Bee keepers have become a scarce commodity,” Moyer said.

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