New Jersey Ag News
Puccio embraces bees as hobby-turned-career
By JANE PRIMERANO
HOPATCONG (Aug.1, 2015) — Jim Puccio was always in his office in New York City’s financial district by 7:45 a.m.
But one day, a series of circumstances had him on the sidewalk after 8 a.m. And a plane passed over his head. Flying strangely low.
Puccio’s office was on the 102nd floor, the northeast corner of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. And he was on the ground on Sept. 11, 2001.
He was in therapy to deal with the trauma and survivor guilt and other residue of that morning.
Then his therapist said, “You don’t need a shrink, become a beekeeper.” He said it started it as a hobby then “it became an addiction.”
The beekeeping hobby started seven years ago. Last year, the Puccios bought a house in Hopatcong. Puccio built hives and they embarked on a new career.
His wife, Christine, a high school math teacher in Essex County, ran the numbers and decided it could work as a business.
While Christine continues to teach, Jim owns or has access to property in Whippany, Parisippany, Mendham, Morris Plains and Denville for a total of 600 hives.
“It’s hard work, but it’s relaxing,” he said. “The weather sets your deadlines.”
He admitted to being more responsibility-oriented than deadline-oriented.
“The bees are gentle,” Christine Puccio commented when the couple had a display at Hopatcong Day on Saturday, June 11. “If you get in their path, you can get stung,” she told some visitors, “if you stay on the side you won’t.”
Puccio only lost two hives through the tough winter. He attributes that partly to closing the hives properly.
“Wintering is the hard part,” he said, noting he wraps the hives in tar paper and has a windscreen on the north and west side.
Raised in an Irish-Italian household, Puccio said he was brought up to help others and he is willing to give advice to hobbyists. Illustrating that, he started chatting with Mark Caplin, a hobby beekeeper who keeps eight hives just up the street from Modick Park where the festival was held.
“I’m the nut who checks the hives with a stethoscope,” Caplin said.
“I’m Jim the cranky beekeeper,” Puccio answered.
They debated the relative benefits of Italian-versus-Russian queens and other timely topics.
He explained he and Christine bought an old apple orchard. Next winter they intend to clear about three to five acres and plant 2,500 dwarf apple, peach, pear and cherry trees. He said the property is good for pick-your-own.
He is also building hives, including old-fashioned Kirkhoff hives which he hopes to sell as well.
“I’m on sabbatical,” he said, explaining he is still having therapy after an auto accident.
“I’m helping with the heavy stuff,” Christine noted.
Although new in town, the couple is getting involved. Jim got an appointment to the borough environmental commission.
“We’ve always respected nature,” Christine said, happy to be in a small town in a rural part of the state.