Busy As A Bee

Food Supply Relies On Pollinators

Posted: February 19, 2013

Mike Hott, grounds manager at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University, monitors the social gesticulations of his bees. (Photo by Aimee George)
Bees fly in and out of their hive. According to Mike Hott, if a pollination is successful, the bee will return and share the news with the rest of the hive through a dance, of sorts. (Photo by Aimee George)
“Without bees ... you don’t eat!”says Mike Hott, grounds manager at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and an avid beekeeper.

Without bees, pollination necessary to sustain fruit and vegetable development simply wouldn’t be, according to Hott.

“[Plants] have to be pollinated in order for your cows to eat, vegetables needed to be pollinated in order to grow. It’s just a chain reaction,” Hott said.

Hott monitors bees’ social gesticulations. “When bees come back from a great pollination they stand in front and do a little dance,” he says.

Aside from being good dancers, bees are intelligent, said Hott. “They are very receptive to one another in their colony and the fact that bees can communicate with one another through dance inspires me to keep learning from them.”

The Buzzing Demand

Locally, the Northern Virginia Beekeepers Teaching Consortium workshop is designed to provide necessary knowledge and holds discussion about starting new beehives and maintaining and growing the colony.

Brenda Kiessling, coordinator of the honeybee workshop in Woodstock, said, “This class was created to train new beekeepers. The demand is remarkable.”

All the localities under the teaching consortium graduate approximately 600 new beekeepers a year, according to Kiessling.

The class provides mentors that act as a guides, consultants, fieldwork assistants and problem solvers.

Will The Grant Fly?

As of January 1, 2013, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, those interested in pursuing beekeeping can apply for a grant to purchase hive supplies.

Each grant can range from $200-$2,400 per individual, per year, to cover the expenses incurred to establish a new hive.

The Beehive Grant Fund was created by the Virginia General Assembly for to promote the establishment of new beehives in the Commonwealth, according to a press release from the VDACS.

Along with the application process, there are general requirements that must be met and followed.

The VDACS will continue to accept applications but the applicants are subject to future funding availability and will not be processed until fiscal year 2014 (July 2013 to June 2014).

Hott said that he “hopes the grant comes through — it’s a good meditation.”

Beauty And The Bees

The bee experience can be healing as well as meditative: Tina Owens, Wellness Team Leader at Friendly City Food Co-op and described the products containing bee bi-products that the Co-op has available.

“A lot of people throw it in smoothies for energy and other health benefits,” said Owens. “We also have a bee pollen capsule ... supplement,” which may help alleviate allergies.

The Co-op carries local honey, which Owens says is argued to be a “good use for allergy relief — Some people say that this is not true and others swear by it.” But undisputedly, Owens said, raw honey contains “antibiotic and antibacterial elements and is not only smooth and soothing, but can be very healing.”

As for natural beauty products, beeswax can be used in anything from lip balm, hand salve or hair products.

With nothing but the buzz of bees filling the air around him, Hott described beekeeping as “a meditative experience ... when working with bees or just hearing the bee buzz, everything else in the world is silenced for that moment …  My mind is free for that entire time. ... I can’t ever get enough!”

Contact Aimee George at (540) 574-6296 or ageorge@dnronline.com.

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