Hudson Valley Beekeeping: How to Raise a Bee Colony, Harvest Honey, and Prevent Colony Collapse Disorder

The bee’s knees: The Valley is abuzz with honeybees and their keepers


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Beekeeping is an odd sport for sure,” says Ulster County’s Megan Denver. “I mean, who would want to keep stinging insects in a box?” Well, luckily for Denver, the owner of Hudson Valley Bee Supply in Kingston, it seems there are hundreds of people here in the Valley clamoring to set up colonies right in their own backyards. Why, you may ask? The reasons vary from helping to pollinate crops and harvesting (and possibly selling) honey to doing their part to knock out Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — the malady that is causing a steep decline in the honeybee population. “All different kinds of people come to the store — those who just want to help the environment and those who are really into honey,” says Denver. “People are very receptive to beekeeping nowadays.”

» Read more about Hudson Valley Bee Supply in The Accidental Foodie blog

There are numerous varieties of bees, but most domestic hives are composed of honeybees — those small, black-and-yellow-striped insects that Winnie-the-Pooh often followed around. A typical hive (or colony) consists of 40,000 bees. Most are worker bees, which are responsible for almost everything that goes on in the hive: collecting nectar and pollen, caring for the baby bees, keeping the hive clean, and feeding the queen. The rest are drones: male bees whose sole purpose is to mate. And, of course, there’s the queen bee, who is at the center of the hive and lays all of the eggs.

Honeybee colonies ride out the winter by huddling together at the bottom of the hive (in most other bee species, only the queen survives by burrowing underground). The insects weather the cold by flapping their wings to generate heat and eating the honey that they produced earlier in the year. Throughout the spring and summer months, they collect nectar from various plants (and in turn pollinate the flora, which helps it reproduce) and bring it back to the hive. The bees then dehydrate the nectar, cap it in the honeycomb’s cells, and voilà! Honey to last the winter. “Bees go into the winter with 60 to 90 pounds of honey, which they store in the upper part of the hive,” explains Denver. “We like to say they keep honey in the attic.”  

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