Press-Republican

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October 27, 2013

Busy with bees

Area experts talk about honey production

Imagine that you are the world’s greatest detective, and that you are now settling down to retirement. What would you do as a retiree? You would want to find a pursuit that was both peaceful and fascinating, and probably one that would let you continue to use your deductive-reasoning abilities in some way.

How about beekeeping?

That was Sherlock Holmes’s choice in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories. In the end, Sherlock Holmes leaves London to live in the English countryside and become a beekeeper, studying the bees and writing a book about them.

If you talk to a beekeeper, it’s easy to see why Conan Doyle chose that retirement path for his famous character. While Sherlock Holmes may be fictitious, the fascination of beekeeping is very real — as many in the North Country have discovered.

NORTH COUNTRY BEEKEEPING

Just ask Dick Crawford of Morrisonville, president of the Champlain Valley Beekeeper’s Association. Crawford describes himself as “a fourth generation beekeeper.” Beekeeping is on both sides of his family, in fact. 

“Back to the late 1800s, in Norway and Scotland, in different branches of the family, there were beekeepers,” Crawford said.

When he was about 10 years old, Crawford began to learn beekeeping from his father. Today, he has some 60 hives, each with its own colony of bees. That means, as he puts it, that he has “5 million employees and no labor problems.”

As president of the Champlain Valley Beekeeper’s Association, Crawford also provides support for the other beekeepers in the area. There are about 100 beekeepers in the Champlain Valley, he said. Some maintain only a single colony, while others have as many as 700 colonies. Bees can be kept for honey and also as pollinators for crops such as apples.

Crawford noted that honey production in each colony varies widely according to conditions that year; he sees anywhere from 25 to 125 pounds of honey per hive.

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