Beekeeping in Frederick County more than a hobby

Staff Writer

MONROVIA, Md. (Jan. 6, 2015) — Glen Mayers is the immediate past-president of the Frederick County Beekeepers Association, a yearly appointed position, and he is also a beekeeper.
“About 80 percent of the food we eat has been touched by pollination,” Mayers said. “And about half of the produce in our food stores would not be there without honey bees.
Mayers and his wife, who teaches school, originally moved to their two and a half acres near Monrovia, Md., because they wanted to have a garden and they wanted to teach their children some of the things they weren’t learning in an urban setting. Mayers has five hives at present.
“We found honey to be the only food produced by insects that humans can consume,” Mayers said. “It is also the only food that is complete, it has everything the bees need to survive.
“We are also finding honey is antiseptic and still good after 2,000 years of entombment in Egypt.”
Mayers also noted that bee keeping has become a huge hobby.
“Which is a good thing,” he said. “But there is still room for more.”
Most beekeeping associations offer short courses in beekeeping and Frederick has 53 people already signed up for this year’s course.
Many counties have beekeeping associations, Mayers said, and Washington, D.C. has a huge one.
“Beehives are allowed on rooftops, he said, and bees are considered livestock so beekeepers must abide by the rules of livestock production.”
There are 13 members of the Frederick County Beekeepers Association, Mayers said.
“We also have two beekeepers in the county who have bees as full-time careers,” he added.
“Our association has a bee booth at the Great Frederick Fair in the Ag building and we sell Frederick County honey there,” Mayers said. “Unlike much available in stores and supermarkets, the honey at the fair is pure, raw, unfiltered, unaltered honey, never heated or cooked.”
Many years ago, beekeeping was a seasonal hobby for most small-time beekeepers, Mayers said, but now it’s a year-long activity.
“Like keeping most livestock, “ he said, “bees need at least weekly attention and their facilities need regular cleaning.”
A big problem for bees, and their keepers, is the Varroa mite, first introduced from eastern Asia 20 to 25 years ago into Europe.
According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the worth of global crops with honeybee’s pollination was estimated in 2005, to be close to $200 billion.
Shortages of bees at that time in the United States had increased the cost 20 percent to farmers renting them for pollination services, and many major universities have continued to develop ways to combat the mites.
“A lot of plants are good for honey,” he said, “and these include clover, buckwheat, tulip poplar, and apple trees. Some plants are not good for honey but bees are good for all plants for pollination.
“There are 200 different types of bees in Maryland alone, most of which are pollinators,” he added. “And clover honey is a big crop in Maryland.”
A prolific hive has one queen that lives from three to five years, and 50,000 to 60,000 bees from late spring to early summer; 98 percent or more are females.
The males are drones whose sole purpose is to mate with the queen.
A queen lays up to 2,000 eggs a day during the main season.
Worker bees only live a short time, literally working themselves to death.
In winter, the bees “cluster” inside the hives with the queen at the center and that keeps the hive at 93-98 degrees F. in winter.