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Bee Mindful in Culpeper

Bee-Mindful-in-Culpeper

Crucial to our environment, honey bees are primary pollinators of plants, which is why scientists are encouraging the trend of local beekeeping.  Honey production while important, is secondary to the honeybees value as pollinators.

The American Beekeeping Federation reports honey bees contribute nearly $20 billion to the value of U.S. crop production. As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for survival, they pollinate fruits, vegetables, small grain, nuts, and more.  Blueberries for example are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination, whereas almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination at bloom time.

According to the Virginia Farm Bureau, one-third of our food depends directly or indirectly upon honeybee pollination. In other terms, honeybees pollinate 80-percent of U.S.-grown crops. 

It is estimated that there are roughly 2.7 million honey bee colonies in the U.S. today, two-thirds of which travel the country each year pollinating crops and producing honey and beeswax.

Bees in Culpeper

In the greater Culpeper area, bees are a big priority and a passion for area entrepreneurs Felecia Chavez of La Bee da Loca and Teresa Gregson of Bees & Trees Farm.

Chavez’s La Bee da Loca is located on Davis Street in Culpeper, which she explains as a two-fold endeavor. “As a beekeeper the shop was built around the upstairs hive. My intent was to be educational as well as telling our pollinators story and how vitally important they are. As for going into retail it was also a way of highlighting local artisans and some of their products.”

Artisan products aren’t the only offerings at La Bee da Loca. In-house produced honey is Chavez’s favorite retail item, and for good reason. Discussing “how very different the flavors change from the many flowers the bees get the nectar from … opens up dialogue on our bees.”   

When Teresa Gregson of Bees & Trees Farm bought Crazy Joe’s Christmas Tree Farm in Elkwood in April 2013, she had no idea her farming venture would evolve into beekeeping. “We wanted to continue the tradition of welcoming Christmas tree customers, but we had no idea at that time that we’d morph into staying open throughout the year … May 1st will conclude our first year of being open every Wednesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM!”

In effort to boost the chemical-free food options for her honeybees and extend their food sources into the fall season, Gregson has created Sarah’s Garden, a cut-flower area of her farm that she named for her mother, a former Winchester Garden Club President. “In Sarah’s Garden we have planted perennials such as lavender, dahlias, peonies, hydrangea, lilies, bachelor buttons, as well as a host of traditional bulbs like tulips and daffodils. To augment the perennials, we are planting a whole host of annuals including eight different varieties of sunflower.”

Bee Education

Bee FactsIf we hope to save the bees, it’s important that those who know bees best share their knowledge with the rest of us. Fortunately, both Gregson and Chavez do that.

While Chavez launches into discussions with her retail customers and assists new beekeepers in getting started, Gregson makes herself available to speak to garden clubs, church groups, scouts, etc. – at their place or hers. “We gladly open the bee hives for educational purpose when the weather is appropriate,” said Gregson. “However, honey bees do not like cold, rain or wind, so when we’ve planned an event and the weather doesn’t cooperate, I will pull out one frame of bees and put it in an observational case so guests can see honeybee activity first hand without upsetting the entire hive.”

We asked both Gregson and Chavez to share something they want people to be aware of when considering bees and honey. Gregson said, “Let your yard have weeds … it’s bee food! Homeowners associations striving for ‘perfect’ yards are helping create food deserts for honeybees by encouraging the spraying of chemicals that kill clover and dandelions – a major source of bee food.” Gregson practices what she preaches. “We understand the cost of not spraying our Christmas trees for fungus and bugs means we lose a number of trees each year, but we do not spray our trees for fear it will affect our honeybees and their honey. We believe it’s important to do what we can to eliminate any possibility of a build up of chemicals in the hive.”

Chavez, quoted in the Culpeper Times, “A lot of times people will ask how they can get started to become beekeepers, I always tell them if they are serious to take a class, there are a number of organizations that provide classes. Learn everything you can, talk with other beekeeper’s, there are so many good reasons to become a beekeeper and please don’t become discouraged!”

Save the Bees

Unofficially, 2018 was the year of the bee in Virginia. June 18-24, 2018 was proclaimed Virginia Pollinator Week by Governor Ralph Northam as an echo to National Pollinator Week observed during the same time. An accompanying press release read, “Virginia is currently experiencing a loss of 30 to 40 percent of hives per year,” and encouraging residents to “become beekeepers or plant gardens or window boxes that will attract pollinators.”

Lo and behold, on July 1, 2018 the Commonwealth of Virginia announced a Beehive Distribution Program in “effort to increase the number of actively managed bee colonies across the Commonwealth.” A catalyst for the program’s creation was colony loss during the previous winter. According to State Apiarist Keith Tignor, “Virginia lost 59.5 percent of its hives” during the 2017-2018 winter season. The program offered up to three hives per applicant causing an “extraordinary number of applications” to flood the Virginia Department of Agriculture. In just 13 days the program received more than 2,600 applications; funding for the program was quickly exhausted for the 2018-2019 program year.

With such a successful hive drive in July, it was probably easy for Governor Northam to proclaim September 2018 Virginia Honey Month. For those of us who love honey and appreciate the bees, every month is honey month.

Invest in the Bee

You can help the bee population return to great numbers by investing in the efforts of local beekeepers. Visit La Bee da Loca when you’re in Culpeper and ask Felecia Chavez about her upstairs beehive. Whether it’s simple curiosity or you’re interested in pursuing beekeeping yourself, she can answer many questions and guide you to additional resources. Be sure to take home a jar or more of her honey for tasty inspiration.

For a beekeeping farm visit, ask Teresa Gregson for an introduction. She can not only show you her hives, but also show off her pollinator garden. Beekeeping isn’t for everyone, but easy-care perennials are an easy and inexpensive way to invest in the bees. Window boxes or raised beds filled with the flowers bees and other pollinators love will help keep the populations happy and our agriculture thriving. Check out the BeeSmart™Pollinator Gardener app for planting suggestions based on your zip code. You may also register your own pollinator garden through the app.

Also check out the Virginia Apiary Registry, a helpful map of self-registered apiarists, including hobbyists. Its purpose is “to help pesticide applicators and beekeepers communicate more effectively to promote awareness and stewardship activities to help prevent and manage drift effects.”

We can all play a part in helping honeybees and other pollinators to not only survive, but to thrive.

 

 

Works Cited

Agriculture, U. S. (2018, March 14). Honey. Retrieved from https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/hd76s004z/bk128d542/x633f346j/Hone-03-14-2018.pdf

Agriculture, U. S. (2018, August 1). Honey Bee Colonies. Retrieved from https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/rn301137d/jq085n95f/mc87pt22m/BeeColonies-08-01-2018.pdf

Bureau, V. F. (n.d.). We Would Go Hungry Without Our Busy Honeybees. Retrieved from https://www.vafb.com/membershipwork/news-resources/honeybees

Chavez, F. (2018, August 16). BEE HAPPY: Where have all the bees gone? Retrieved from Culpeper Times: http://www.insidenova.com/culpeper/bee-happy-where-have-all-the-bees-gone/article_f8c5a4ae-a15d-11e8-ac5a-bb34ff06105d.html

Federation, A. B. (n.d.). Honey Bees are Pollinators. Retrieved from Pollination Facts: https://www.abfnet.org/page/PollinatorFacts