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October 27, 2013

Busy with bees

Area experts talk about honey production

(Continued)

“Usually we harvest the honey here in mid-August. In Florida, they harvest six times a year,” he said.

When harvesting, beekeepers leave some honey behind so that the bees, themselves, will have enough for the winter.

While beekeeping is a family tradition for Crawford, for Timothy McGarry of Essex, it is an interest that he acquired in college. 

McGarry was visiting a friend whose family kept bees. 

“I had some of the honey, and it was amazing; in college, you live on honey and peanut butter,” McGarry said. 

As he learned more about beekeeping, he became intrigued. 

“One thing led to another, and I’ve been playing with the crazy bugs ever since,” he said with a laugh. Today, McGarry has 40 colonies at his Essex farm.

“I’m kind of a hybrid. I raise bees not only for the honey, but to literally raise bees; I sell them to other beekeepers,” he said.

BEE CULTURE

Observing the bees is fascinating. Crawford said that when he thinks he has them figured out, he will see an unexpected behavior, and realize that he doesn’t have them figured out at all.

The bees communicate with each other through behavior often known as a “dance.” 

“Early in the morning, when they’ve found a food source, they come back here and tell everybody where they’ve found something,” Crawford said.

Now, as their food supplies die off, the bees rely on what they have stored — along with occasional attempts at piracy.

Bees will try to steal from neighboring colonies, so all hives have “guards,” so to speak, posted at the entrance. They can be observed examining each newcomer. If he carries the smell of the colony, he is allowed entrance. If he carries the smell of a different colony, he is driven away.

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