The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 15, 2013

Saving honeybees, one hive at a time


“What the—!” he exclaimed. He saw roof shingles falling like autumn leaves, a man in a moon suit 25 feet up, and honeybees lazily circling his hooded head. The golfer must have seen the gob of wild honey, too, because he walked over to Candy. “Hey,” he said. “Can I have some of that?”

“Sure,” she said. “Bring us a plate.” But she grinned after he walked away. “I wouldn’t want any of that. It’s a sticky mess, and you don’t know whether anybody’s sprayed the hive.”

Candy says she sometimes has to hold her tongue. People can do what they want with their own property, she said. But she knows how vulnerable the bees are, though people are terrified of them. They spray them as though they are wasps.

Under the roof, Bill had cut out a 5-foot section of roofing plywood.

He pulled it away.

Underneath, now exposed to sunlight, were tens of thousands of bees, acting sleepy and docile. They walked around on a 5-foot-long yellow-gold wedge of wax honeycomb, filled with brown honey, and darker material, at one end, which was where the queen laid her eggs and the hive raised the baby bee larvae.

They are such vulnerable creatures, Candy said. “People have no idea.”

When they remove a wild hive like this one, Bill and Candy take it home to try to preserve it. They are by no means the only people trying to save the honeybee. Nearly every beekeeper nowadays is reading, Googling reports, trying to save bees one hive at a time.

Bill and Candy own 200 hives now, housing them at their farm near Marion and on property Candy owns in Oklahoma.

Six years ago Bill began an experiment that continues to this day.

To kill the varroa mite that has killed so many bees, scientists came up with a pesticide that literally killed a bug living on a bug. It was a fine piece of work. But it didn’t last.

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