Beekeeping: How sweet it is!

by MARLENE FRITZ
from University of Idaho College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Magazine

J. Reed Findlay learned to raise bees from his enterprising grandfather Sam Reed. Now, nearly 500 eastern Idahoans have learned how to raise bees from Findlay, University of Idaho Extension educator in Bannock County.

bees_boys-150x150“When colony collapse disorder hit the national news and I started getting all of these phone calls, I had two options,” says the Pocatello-based Findlay. “I could tell them what a little kid who used to grow bees remembered, or I could start keeping bees myself so I could answer their questions.”

Using their grandpa’s old equipment, Findlay and his twin brother, Russell, chose the latter. They raise about 50 colonies of honeybees and even capture and relocate feral swarms. Eastern Idaho’s Master Gardeners and Findlay’s bustling beekeeping club—whose members stretch from Bear Lake to Idaho Falls—benefit from his buzz for bees.

Beekeeping club member Stanley Packer, of Preston, launched three hives this spring and will start harvesting honey next year. “It’s just so fascinating—all the things those little critters do,” he says.

“Bees do the darndest things,” agrees Findlay. Intriguing his students most are bees’ tightly orchestrated caste system and their colony-based reproduction—the queen mates early in her life with 8 to 20 drones, then releases the sperm on an as-needed basis for the remainder of her days.

Eddie Glines, who calls Findlay’s presentation to his Bannock County Master Gardener class “very dynamic,” now has one hive for pollinating vegetables and may soon add one for an apple orchard. “I sit on my grass pile and watch the bees,” Glines says. “I can see guard bees watching the hives and other bees fanning it to keep it cool and still others going out to collect pollen and bring it back. It’s a very interesting culture to watch.”

“I hope I planted the seed,” says Findlay.

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