Enjoy this account from John Jasmin, owner of Bash Bish Honey in Copake NY:
Teaching about Nature
I retired from a career as a special education teacher in the public school system. When I taught elementary school, K-2, I felt that the students needed a stimulating learning environment. The same boring, book filled, white board, desk and chairs of old was not for me. I brought in a menagerie of insects, amphibians and reptiles, from tarantulas to emperor scorpions. I learned to handle all the creatures with my bare hands and the kids loved it.
The students’ interest in Nature helped me to bridge the gap of resistance many had with learning. My interest in the living things I cared for made me a better caretaker to the lives that I was responsible for.
Getting started as a beekeeper
When I retired, I used my honey connection (Bill Seymour) to educate me about the wonders of the beehive. I admit, the stings were my main concern, but I thought that this very old gentlemen was able to do it then so could I.
I thought I’d start with two hives and I caught three swarms in my first year. One swarm was captured in September and I was told by all the experts that is was too late for them to be saved. Well, I fed them and kept them warm over the winter and the following spring I had five hives. Many at my bee club lost 50% or more of their hives so I felt I must be doing ok.
I was so fascinated by all the ways a beekeeper could manipulate the hive to increase the number of hives, make new queens, treat the hives for diseases and learn how to be a better hive manager. I was also astounded at the amount of honey the bees made each year.
Each winter I read prodigiously on anything concerning bees. I have a very large library now and am always looking for new ideas and techniques that will help me and the bees flourish.
I build all my own hives now and use three types primarily. One is the common Langstroth hive, invented in the 1850’s. I also built and use a Top-Bar hive that has windows to allow for observation of the bees inner workings. My favorite is my horizontal hive, a very large and heavy hive that the bees have really enjoyed. It is filled with honey and weighs in excess of 250lbs and is very well defended by a huge number of bees.
Three of my five apiaries are protected by electric fences due to bear invasions that are costly and common. WE HAVE BEAR EVERYWHERE IN THIS AREA! I keep 50 hives and will reduce that number as I perfect the quality of the ones I do have.
Getting down to business: how do bees do what they do?
Honeybees are pollinators. They are attracted to flowering plants and trees by the sweet tasting and smelling nectar that plants produce specifically to attract pollinators. Honeybees also collect pollen, which is protein rich and a good source of food for the bees and their young.
As the bees gather nectar and pollen, they inadvertently allow pollen to stick to the hairs that cover their outer bodies. This is what the plants need to happen. The honeybees travel to other plants of the same species and the pollen they are carrying gets stuck on the plants reproductive organs, thus fertilizing the plant. Fertilization produces seeds and fruit in many plants, or just seeds in many flowers.
Farmers benefit from having a lot of honeybees around because there will be more fruit and vegetables, larger fruit and vegetables and healthier looking produce that has better uniformity. Honeybees use the nectar and pollen to produce food for the young bees that are in larva form.
They also eat what they collect. They mix the nectar with their own stomach juices and water to form honey. Honey is a mixture of the nectar and pollen of many thousands of local plants that are flowering at the time of harvest. Fortunately for humans, the honeybees produce far more honey than they need each year, so some of the excess honey can be harvested by humans without effecting the honeybees.
Where to find my honey
Along with the Farmers Market, which I really enjoy, I sell at Random Harvest, Copake General Store, and Agway in Hillsdale. My customers have supported me and have added to the quality and care of the honeybees in this area. Thank you all so much for allowing me the opportunity to contribute something positive to the environment before I go.