Beekeepers describe challenges

November 26, 2000

Beekeepers describe challenges


see also: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Bill and Nancy TroupWILLIAMSPORT - Be smart: Keep bees.

That's the message that Nancy and Bill Troup, who own Bee Smart Apiary in Williamsport, try to convey during speaking engagements and seminars throughout Washington County and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

The certified master beekeepers recently educated members of the Clear Spring Garden Club about the benefits and how-tos of beekeeping.

The Troups, who will host their next eight-week beekeeping class in February, strive to pique the interest of people of all ages, they said.

"Beekeeping is a real interesting challenge. There have got to be more kept colonies of bees for adequate pollination of fruits and vegetables," said Bill Troup, who inspects apiaries and weights and measures for the state Department of Agriculture.


"It's more important now than it ever was for people to become beekeepers," Troup said. "It's important not to let it become a lost art."

Pollination by honey bees, natural colonies of which have been virtually wiped out by disease, plays an "integral role" in agriculture, he said.

Gardeners' circles are abuzz about the lack of bees to "pollinate their pumpkins, their squash, their cantaloupes," Troup said.

Internal and external parasites have eradicated many feral honey bee colonies, and beekeepers are needed to maintain healthy colonies in removable frame hives, said Nancy Troup, who works full-time as a special education instructional assistant for the county Board of Education.

There's no better time to start thinking about and preparing for beekeeping than during these cold weather months, Bill Troup said.

Nearly 30,000 honey bees now cluster in the Troups' 130 hives, sustaining themselves with a portion of the honey they produced during the warmer months. During the peak season - from mid-March to the end of June - about 70,000 bees will produce almost three tons of honey for Bee Smart Apiary, Nancy Troup said.

Honey bees make 90 percent of their product in May and June, she said.

She and her husband work about 50 hours a week during the peak season medicating their insects against disease, inspecting hives, starting colonies for other beekeepers and tackling the "delicate balance" of beekeeping - knowing how much honey to take and how much to leave for the bees.

The Troups said they are rarely stung.

"We're farmers, basically, except the animals we work with are tiny, six-legged, winged things," Nancy Troup said.

And like any farmer, the beekeeper is at the mercy of Mother Nature, the Troups said.

This year's sunshine deficit hampered nectar production. Frequent downpours washed what little nectar there was from plants. The rain also kept honey bees in their hives and unable to pollinate, the Troups said.

They will spend the winter months keeping their bees' healthy by supplementing their honey diet with sugar water to compensate for the shortfall in this year's honey harvest, they said.

Beekeeping is labor intensive but the hobby's rewards are many, the Troups said.

"It's the mysteriousness of the insect and how the bees actually perform their duties that make it an interesting hobby," Bill Troup said. "It's rewarding to see the bees healthy and prospering after all your time and efforts."

For information about bee keeping, those interested may call 301-223-9662.

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