Michael Shamblin with the Clay County WVU Extension Service provided a fascinating introduction to beekeeping at the Marlinton Municipal Building Monday night. Shamblin ‘s visit was arranged by Greg Hamons of the Pocahontas County WVU Extension Service.
The purpose of Shamblin’s visit was to generate interest in beekeeping and identify potential members of a new Pocahontas County chapter of the state Beekeepers Association.
Shamblin’s described how bees live, work and produce honey. Worker bees fly over a wide area to collect nectar and pollen from flowering plants, which is food for the colony. As the worker bees visit flowers, they perform the critical task of pollenation – so critical to agriculture. With bellies full of nectar and leg sacks full of pollen, the bees fly back to the nest, where they regurgitate the sugary nectar into the comb. Squads of other bees flap their wings to blow air over the honey, reducing its moisture content.
Shamblin described the three types of bees: queens, workers and drones. The queen is the mother of the entire colony and is responsible for reproduction and the production of pheremones, chemical signals that “glue” the colony together.
Drones are male bees whose only job is to reproduce. They do no work, but consume more honey than female worker bees. Drones are known to drift between nests and can transmit deadly mites. After they reproduce, the drones die. They are “evicted” from the hive by female workers, fall to the ground and quickly die.
Female worker bees are responsible for work inside and outside the nest. During their early life, they are assigned to work inside the hive, including cleaning cells, feeding the brood, caring for the queen and building combs. The last job assigned to worker bees is outside the hive, foraging for nectar. In summer, worker bees live about six weeks. In winter, they can live as long as six months.
The expert’s talk also covered the equipment needed to raise bees and produce honey, including personal protective gear. Bees are agitated by colors – that’s why beekeeper suits are all white. Beekeeeping equipment is very affordable. A complete beginners kit, including protective gear and one hive, is available online for $200.
Shamblin’s overview just scratched the surface of the amazing life of honeybees and the rewarding practice of apiculture. The expert provided two excellent links for more information: The Mid Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium provides extensive information at https://agdev.anr.udel.edu/maarec/. A basic beekeeping guide, published by Penn State, can be found at http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/agrs93.pdf.
Hamons said the Pocahontas County Extension Service will be holding an organizational meeting for a new chapter of the West Virginia Beekeepers Association in the next month or so. During that meeting, the group will elect officers and begin work on a set of bylaws. For more information and to get on the beekeeper email list, call the Extension Service at 304-799-4852.