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Building a Beehive

  • At Five Sisters Farm in Plainfield, three of the Falcone sisters, (from left) Norah 6, Hannah, 12, and Ella, 10, trim, brush and feed Dalia the sheep as their dog Milo watches. (Valley News - Libby March)

    At Five Sisters Farm in Plainfield, three of the Falcone sisters, (from left) Norah 6, Hannah, 12, and Ella, 10, trim, brush and feed Dalia the sheep as their dog Milo watches. (Valley News - Libby March)

  • From left, Hannah Falcone, 12, her sisters Ella, 10, and Claire, 8, listen while Richard Brewster shows them what the queen bee will be in when her bees arrive for her new hive. The family was visiting Brewster’s home in Andover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    From left, Hannah Falcone, 12, her sisters Ella, 10, and Claire, 8, listen while Richard Brewster shows them what the queen bee will be in when her bees arrive for her new hive. The family was visiting Brewster’s home in Andover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • Hannah Falcone shakes out three pounds of bees she will use to start her new hive at Five Sisters Farm in Plainfield. While shaking the bees out of the box they arrived in, she was also trying to shake off the bees that were landing on her. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Hannah Falcone shakes out three pounds of bees she will use to start her new hive at Five Sisters Farm in Plainfield. While shaking the bees out of the box they arrived in, she was also trying to shake off the bees that were landing on her. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • Newly-released honey bees move into their hive at Hannah Falcone’s farm. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Newly-released honey bees move into their hive at Hannah Falcone’s farm. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • During Dairy Day at the Plainfield School, Hannah Falcone helps students make butter by shaking cream in a small container. From left are students Sean Donoghue, Colbie Delisle and Luke Ricci. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    During Dairy Day at the Plainfield School, Hannah Falcone helps students make butter by shaking cream in a small container. From left are students Sean Donoghue, Colbie Delisle and Luke Ricci. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • Hannah Falcone, of Plainfield, listens to Richard Brewster, of Andover, N.H.,  tell her what she will need to be doing with her bees in the following weeks after he helped her set up her new hive at her home. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Hannah Falcone, of Plainfield, listens to Richard Brewster, of Andover, N.H., tell her what she will need to be doing with her bees in the following weeks after he helped her set up her new hive at her home. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • At Richard Brewster's home in Andover, N.H., Brewster leads the family out to his back yard to talk about bees. From left are Hannah, Norah, Paige, Ella, Claire and Meg Falcone. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    At Richard Brewster's home in Andover, N.H., Brewster leads the family out to his back yard to talk about bees. From left are Hannah, Norah, Paige, Ella, Claire and Meg Falcone. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

  • At Five Sisters Farm in Plainfield, three of the Falcone sisters, (from left) Norah 6, Hannah, 12, and Ella, 10, trim, brush and feed Dalia the sheep as their dog Milo watches. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • From left, Hannah Falcone, 12, her sisters Ella, 10, and Claire, 8, listen while Richard Brewster shows them what the queen bee will be in when her bees arrive for her new hive. The family was visiting Brewster’s home in Andover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Hannah Falcone shakes out three pounds of bees she will use to start her new hive at Five Sisters Farm in Plainfield. While shaking the bees out of the box they arrived in, she was also trying to shake off the bees that were landing on her. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Newly-released honey bees move into their hive at Hannah Falcone’s farm. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • During Dairy Day at the Plainfield School, Hannah Falcone helps students make butter by shaking cream in a small container. From left are students Sean Donoghue, Colbie Delisle and Luke Ricci. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Hannah Falcone, of Plainfield, listens to Richard Brewster, of Andover, N.H.,  tell her what she will need to be doing with her bees in the following weeks after he helped her set up her new hive at her home. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • At Richard Brewster's home in Andover, N.H., Brewster leads the family out to his back yard to talk about bees. From left are Hannah, Norah, Paige, Ella, Claire and Meg Falcone. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Hannah Falcone, 12, was a second grader when her beekeeping teacher told the class about the pollinators’ dismal situation. Across the world, entire colonies of honey bees are dying off. Stung, Hannah brought the bad news home.

“We need to keep bees,” she told her mother Meg Falcone, a veterinarian.

That spring, the Plainfield Elementary School student helped clean her teacher’s beehives. Soon after, she had a hive of her own.

Hannah, the oldest of five girls, lives on her family farm, home to sheep, alpaca, chickens, and, for the past three years, bees. Her hobby has created a buzz in the family, who have helped her care for the creatures, eaten their honey and even scraped wax from the honeycomb.

“You can melt it down and make really cool-shaped candles,” Hannah said.

Her work with bees also attracted the attention of fellow beekeeper Richard Brewster, who has been helping her start a new colony after her original bees died off mysteriously last year.

On a windy day last month, Brewster arrived at Five Sisters Farm with 10,000 new residents — three pounds, or $90 worth, of bees. The insects, which came from Georgia, were packed in a small wooden crate.

“This is just a start,” said Brewster, 85. “The average hive has 40,000.”

After Hannah donned her beekeeper suit, Brewster explained the process for introducing the queen, who was new to the bees. Then, he coached Hannah on how to get the rest of the insects into her hive, a squat rectangular box he’d painted purple and decorated with daisies.

“First, you’re going to spray the heck out of them” with sugar water, which distracts the bees and prevents them from flying, he said.

The Andover, N.H., resident held up the bee-filled crate while she sprayed it. Then, he placed it in her gloved hand.

“Once you (open this), you’re going to have about 1,000 bees come out,” he warned.

As Hannah lifted the container over the hive, family members gathered around to watch the “bee out.”

“Come on bees,” she said, tapping the bottom of the crate. “Go in there.”

Most went inside, but a dozen or so scrambled onto her white suit.

“They’re on my pants,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it, just shake them in,” said her grandfather, Richard Nalevanko, who’d traveled from his home in Alstead, N.H. for the occasion.

Others hovered around the hive.

“Look how happy they look,” Hannah said.

When the bees had disappeared into their new home, Brewster, working barehanded, replaced the cover.

No one had been stung, but the possibility was on his mind.

“Some people say bee stings are good for muscular dystrophy and arthritis,” but he finds them energizing, he said. “When they sting me, I can run to beat hell.”

Hannah, an active 4-H member, has remained concerned about the fate of honeybees, and beekeepers. This year, she won the organization’s statewide essay contest for her piece describing bees’ importance as pollinators and strategies for protecting them from pesticides. Recently, she heard about a project that provides solar wax melters to beekeepers in Africa and vowed to contribute $100 to the cause. Fittingly, she’s selling honey sticks to raise the cash.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at 603-727-3210 or acaruso@vnews.com.