Monday, August 21, 2017

Ten-year-old beekeeper Morgan Sites peers into the top of his hive for a portrait photo north of Livingston on July 10. Bees crawl about inside 10-year-old beekeeper Morgan Sites’ hive north of Livingston on July 10.

THE BUZZ ABOUT BEEKEEPING

Livingston residents are joining in on the fun as the country’s second leading honey-producing state becomes home to more and more beekeepers. 
 
Montana State University Lewis and Clark County Extension Agent Brent Sarchet came to the Livingston-Park County Public Library to discuss beekeeping tactics with interested Livingston residents, and demonstrated proper bee care, bee anatomy and biology, beekeeping equipment, and other important beekeeping concepts at an Introductory Beekeeping Class on July 6.
 
Among those in attendance that evening was Morgan Sites, 10, who attended the class with his parents. Morgan bought his very own hive in May for a 4-H project and is continuing the beekeeping process throughout this season and next season.
 
“I just wanted to do something with livestock, and I thought bees might be fun and cool,” he said.
 
Morgan hadn’t had any previous beekeeping experience, but is enjoying caring for his bees – and hasn’t even been stung.
 
“Having a hive is really not as much work as it might sound like,” Morgan said. “Later in the winter it’s more, but really you just have to check it every once in awhile. Really, harvesting the honey is the hardest part.” 
 
Morgan plans on selling the honey next season at the Livingston Farmers Market.
 
In regard to the bees themselves, Morgan enjoys the beekeeping process with Carniolan bees, which he said are “actually really passive.”
 
“The first time I got my bees, when we were putting them out in the hive, my brother was standing there taking pictures in shorts and a T-shirt, and they never even stung him. He was only like 5 feet away from them,” Morgan laughed.
 
Brent Sarchet is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for the Lewis and Clark County MSU Extension and mentioned at the class how some bees are “the most cantankerous little devils,” and with some bees he’s worked with, he hasn’t even needed protective equipment.
 
“That all goes back to the queen, and the pheromones she’s giving off,” Sarchet explained. 
 
He advised beekeepers to replace their queen bee if the bees in the hive are too aggressive.
 
Sarchet has been beekeeping for eight years, and teaching introductory beekeeping classes for five. He said he usually maintains around five hives. 
 
“Beekeeping in Montana isn’t ‘easy.’ Get educated on beekeeping so you will have an enjoyable experience,” he said in an email. 
 
At the beekeeping class July 6, Sarchet explained that a typical bee colony will cost $120-$130, and a replacement queen costs $50. Hive and equipment adds up to around $350. Sarchet also explained that most hives will end up paying for themselves, if beekeepers choose to sell harvested honey or wax.
 
Morgan said he got a discount hive for $150, which he was able to pay for from his savings.
 
A plethora of additional beekeeping information was presented at the class. Attendees gained a basic knowledge of bee castes – worker bee, drone bee, queen bee – as well as basic bee body parts and their functions. Sarchet explained the major pros, cons, and differences between ideal bee species, including temperament, breeding and recommended treatment for each species. Also presented at the class was a basic overview into the setup and care required for a Langsford hive, common diseases, pests and their respective treatments, and a recommended calendar for seasonal bee care.
 
Sarchet also explained that in Montana and specifically Livingston areas, he sees “many new beekeepers get frustrated when they are not successful in overwintering their bees. I suggest everyone attends a beekeeping class, attend local beekeeper groups/club meetings if there is one in your area, and get a good reference book that is specific to beekeeping in northern latitudes. If you have the opportunity to have an experienced mentor help you, that is the best way to learn.”
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