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Bella bees!

Pennsylvania residents make a new home for Italian hive

Created date

May 24th, 2011

Since spring Maris Grove has been buzzing about the neighbors who took up residence April 3 in two small abodes at the south end of campus. Who are they and why are they here? They re honeybees 20,000 workers and two queens equally settled in two hives on the far side of the community s pond at the 87-acre campus. Keeping bees had been a dream of Maris Grove resident John Kaufman s since ninth-grade science class. He finally pursued it three years ago when he and his wife, Toni, attended a beekeeping seminar. They d already moved to Maris Grove, an Erickson Living community in Glen Mills, Pa., and he approached Maureen Heckler, Maris Grove s executive director, about having beehives and a beekeeping club on campus. Heckler was enthusiastic. Had the Kaufmans tried this in Swarthmore, where they used to live, they d have had neither the space nor a supportive community behind them. As we walk down the hall now, people say, How are the bees? What s going on? There s a lot of interest, he says. Due to diseases, parasites, and pesticides, bee populations have declined. Because of that, People are starting to understand how important the bees are, says Mrs. Kaufman. An interested and curious crowd braved chilly, windy April weather to greet the bees a docile Italian breed, and to watch Scott Bartow, Longwood Gardens beekeeper and the club s mentor, hive them.

Apian expertise

While the Kaufmans beekeeping knowledge comes from seminars, club members Frank De Vries and June Paterson have hands-on experience. Paterson kept bees for 15 years. She became fascinated with the hobby when she lived in Concord Township and her son took it up in 4-H. They kept as many as eight hives at a time. I thought the beekeeping club sounded like fun, she says. And I thought it was important for them to have someone who actually did have some experience keeping bees. She s advised Mr. Kaufman about hive boxes and other supplies. Frankly, I m surprised I remember as much as I do, says Paterson. Since the bees arrival, she and De Vries have been feeding them sugar syrup. They need food to make wax to build their comb, she says. It s as though you ve put them in an empty house and they need to build the walls and furniture. This summer the far side of the pond will resonate with the hypnotic hum of worker bees. Like commuting motorists, they ll fly from the hives in search of pollen in Maris Grove flowerbeds and garden lots, then glide back laden with golden dust. We ll have more beautiful flowers and more vegetables because of the bees, says Mrs. Kaufman. But the club won t harvest honey this year. The bees will keep it all to ensure adequate food stores. Paterson says bees need 70-80 pounds of honey per hive to get through the winter. Next year, when the club does harvest honey, they ll bottle and sell it to benefit Maris Grove s resident care fund.