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Out & About: It’s not too early to bee prepared for bee season

  • Mike Frace, owner of Hillside Hives in Woodsville, will be giving a talk about beekeeping from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday at Woodsville Library. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 1/4/2020 10:35:10 PM
Modified: 1/4/2020 10:34:43 PM

Like food? Consider becoming a beekeeper. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating 35% of the world’s food crops, according to the USDA, and some foods — such as blueberries and almonds — would not exist at all without bees.

That’s why it’s so concerning that honeybees’ numbers are in decline. Among the culprits are climate change, pesticides, diseases, parasites and a mysterious phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, which is the sudden disappearance of a hive’s population of worker bees for no apparent reason.

Mike Frace, owner of Hillside Hives in Woodsville, believes that the more people in the Upper Valley raise bees, the better the chances that someone will either figure out what’s causing colony collapse disorder or succeed in breeding healthy bees.

That’s why he’s presenting an introduction to beekeeping talk at Woodsville Library from 10 a.m.-noon next Saturday. Just like gardeners, beekeepers need to start planning and purchasing equipment in January to be ready to go when spring arrives. Frace’s talk will provide all the information new beekeepers need to know before they jump into the hobby.

The talk, which is free, will cover such topics as costs, time and equipment required to keep bees; the best location for hives; and which flowers bees prefer. All the information will be specific to the region.

“You can learn a lot on YouTube, but you need to look and see where these people are from,” Frace said. “That was one of my mistakes at the beginning — I took a lot of advice from people from Georgia.”

The southern U.S. is where many bees are bred before being shipped northward, but southern diseases often get imported here in the process. This past year, Frace bred his own bees, from which he hopes to establish a more northern-hardy line to share with other beekeepers in the Upper Valley.

“I didn’t get any honey from the bees the first year, but I don’t care,” Frace said. “I just want them to survive, to create new bees that I raised myself.”

Frace, who also builds and sells custom beehives and provides follow-up support, would like to see local beekeepers and the community supporting one another.

“It benefits all of us,” he said. “These bees are pollinating our gardens and helping us eat.”

Even people who don’t keep bees can contribute to their health. For instance, the town of Woodsville recently stopped using the pesticide Roundup at Frace’s request. The chemical disorients the bees, so they forget where their hives are. Or, if they do make it back, they transfer the pesticide to the honey.

Gardeners can help bees by refraining from using chemical-based pesticides and herbicides. Frace is glad to supply a recipe for a vinegar-and-water mixture to spray on the weeds.

“I live in downtown Woodsville,” he said. “If you live within a 4-mile radius, my bees have probably visited your garden.”

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