Bees and Beyond: Informative Interview with Stephen Burney from Hudson Hives
We visited the amazing beekeeper and intelligent resource, Stephen Burney, at his hives to conduct an interview. We're sure you'll learn something new!
Girl Scout Troop 72814: Why did you decide to start an apiary?
Stephen Burney: I always wanted to have bees. My uncle and cousins in Ireland- well, mainly my cousins- they had hives. That planted the seed. Had I known then what I know now, I would have started 20 years ago. I was concerned where I previously lived- it was kind of like the downtown Hudson area, the houses are very close together- and I wasn't knowledgeable of bees and what they do. I was very reluctant until I moved here and there's more open space to have a hive. That is totally wrong. You can be very dense. Cities have hives on their rooftops. There is a zen quality. I would be a farmer if I could pay the mortgage with it. It all ties back to Ireland and doing it as a kid, and helping out in my family's farm- my uncle's farm. At that time (I was probably your age) I hated it. But that type of work- it's fun work. It's good honest work. It's not sitting behind a desk with a computer in an office on a nice, beautiful day- you're outside. I like the whole harvesting aspect of it. I like to watch the bees. It's a lot of work to have beehives. I give up my weekends, I give up my Springs, and I give up my Falls. But what you saw today- when you come out and you get 150 pounds of honey from one hive- keep in mind, 40 hives, that's a lot of honey. It's nice. And I know where it comes from. I know how I treated my hive. There's no adulterated, watered down corn syrup in my honey. It is exactly how it came from the hive in that bottle, so I really like that. That's what I like about it.
GST: What are the biggest threats to bees today?
SB: Pesticides definitely are a problem for bees. It affects their neurological systems with its accumulative effect. So pesticides may not hurt this hive, but the generations to follow could have issues from the pesticides. But in my opinion, the number one problem for hives in losing hives and the collapse of hives is the varroa mite. It's like a tick on a dog. If you don't treat for mites, you won't have hives next year. And there's a debate among beekeepers: let nature take care of it, but commercial guys say they'll be out of business. There's different ways to treat for the mite. Formic acid is the one we use. It's a mite quick strip that you put in the hive during certain temperature ranges. It's like putting an apple in a brown paper bag, letting it rot, and then opening the bag. That smell is formic acid. It's not 100% foolproof for the bee. Bees could die. But the long-term benefit outweighs the short-term loss. The mite was imported from China to the U. S. about 20 years ago. New Zealand was finally the last place it spread to. Now everywhere in the world has varroa mites. And there's all debates: Let nature handle it, don't let the pharmaceutical bee companies intrude, you'll have to buy medicine every year. But I've found if you don't treat for mites you won't have bees next year. And they're very aggressive. They'll jump on and infect the neighboring hive. If your neighbor doesn't treat, it's a mite-bomb waiting to go off. I'd say that's the number one issue for bees.
GST: What are some steps you can take to help bees at home!
SB: In the summertime, you can have an area in your yard with wet ground. It's bad for mosquitoes, but it helps bees. They go to people's pools and then they fall in and drown. But if you have a wet area on the ground- even under a dripping hose- when it's really dry and there's no natural water, that's a step someone could take to help out bees. Oh, and the best thing? Become a beekeeper!
GST: What flower species do you recommend?
SB: I recommend letting your oregano, mint and other plants go to bolt. That's a good food source for bees. I also recommend catmint (catnip), salvia, butterfly bush, and alium.
Stephen Burney also recommended letting dandelions and clover grow on your lawn for the forage and nourishment of bees, mowing your lawn every two weeks instead of every week, not using chemical sprays including pesticides and herbicides, and making a bee bath. To make a good bee bath, use water mixed with dirt and float cork or wood chips on top. Burney noted that bees like dirty water more than plain water because it gives them additional nutrients. Many thanks to Mr. Burney for his wonderful interview, and we heartily recommend his delicious honey!