Bee's needs workshop held at Logee's

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Feb. 18, 2013
Clethra ruby spice. Photo courtesy of Byron Martin. - Contributed Photo

The Killingly Agriculture Commission sponsored the first of its outreach programs on Feb. 16, at Logee's Nursery. Byron Martin, KAG member and bee aficionado, led a two-hour session on beekeeping.

“The Ag. Commission tried to put together a program to help the community in terms of agriculture,” Martin said. “Beekeeping is involved, and it's even more so today with the distress on honeybees. This was simply an information session to help people get acquainted with what beekeeping is all about.”

Martin is passionate about bees. It should come as little surprise, since he owns Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, home to a wide collection of plants that rely on pollinators for their survival. According to Martin, interest in beekeeping has taken an upturn in the country, since 2006 when honeybee populations declined drastically from what's known as “colony collapse disorder.”

The disorder isn't well understood. Scientists have proposed a number of theories about why bee populations are declining. They include mites, diseases, environmental changes, malnutrition, pesticides and migratory beekeeping. Some even think genetically modified crops play a role in the disorder.

“A lot of research has gone into solving this problem, but it hasn't been solved,” said Martin. The introduction of mites in the mid-'80s in the U.S. has been a big part of the problem, according to Martin. European honeybees weren't able to adapt to the mites and started dying off. “It wiped out most feral bee colonies,” he said. “And it really hit managed hives hard. Chemical applications helped stave off the mites for a while, but they mutated. What's exciting is that there are areas where wild bees are starting to rebound, which means there has been movement towards an adaption to it. That's a good thing.”

Another issue for beekeepers is managing bee viruses. Bees can be affected by viruses much like humans can. There are different schools of thought about how to best manage the viruses, and each approach has its consequences. If you use pesticides, it can get into the hives and ruin the honey and distress the bees, he said. “It's not as easy as it used to be when I started keeping bees in the early '70s,” Martin said. “You have to pay attention to certain management techniques. But almost anyone can do it.”

Area interest is high, if the response to the class is any indication. In the first hour of registration, all 25 slots were filled. “Many food crops depend on bees, and people have started to focus on that,” Martin said. “There's an awakening in gardening and growing your own food. Here in northeastern Connecticut, we're fortunate in two ways. One, there isn't a lot of agriculture which has lots of pesticides in it,” he said. “And two, we don't have lots of commercial beekeepers which have viruses.”

Martin said you don't have to be a beekeeper to help out honeybees. “It's important that we be thoughtful about how we manage and support all pollinators,” he said. “Pollinators worldwide are in decline. We have problems with some bumblebees and solitary bees disappearing. Bees need pollen and nectar, and they get it from weeds, trees and plantings we do around our homes.” He suggests people consider planting holly instead of ewes, crab apples or red buds instead of Bradford pear trees.

“There are all kinds of wonderful plants for bees and pollinators. It's about people making choices when they garden. It's not going to cost any more. It's just making a conscious decision to support all of our pollinators,” he said.

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