Bee-1

Beekeeper Larry Theurer showed off the intricate work of honey bees during a presentation June 5 at Sheffield Lake's Domonkas Library.

That buzzing sound coming from Sheffield Lake's Domonkas Library last week resulted from a talk between beekeepers and the audience.

"Anybody can be a beekeeper," beekeeper Larry Theurer told a small groupat the June 5 program.

Besides covering beekeeping basics, Theurer and his wife, Brenda, discussed the personality characteristics of honey bees from countries including Italy, Canada and Russia. This is a critical factor to consider when breeding bees for honey or wax, they said.

The couple showed how honey bees are carefully packed in a "bee bus" for transport. The queen is placed in a separate container affixed to the inside of the bus to keep her from other bees during shipping. A cylinder of sugar water provides nutrition during their travel. Upon arrival to their new home, the plug in the queen's container is removed and stuffed with a bit of marshmallow. Drones eat the sweet stuff, eventually releasing the queen into the colony. The Theurers emphasized this process must be followed because anything else would be fatal to the queen because it takes time for the other bees to accept her.

All bees have a job. Some are guards, others are scouts, foragers, nurses or attendants to the queen. 

Larry joked about how busy he's become tending bees now that he's retired from a municipal utility. In addition to caring for hives at his home in Old Brooklyn and a rental property, he serves as beekeeper for the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds hive. He and a partner also maintain 15 hives that Eaton Corp. has at its Beachwood headquarters. He and Brenda teach beekeeping classes and he serves as vice president to the 100-year-old Lorain County Beekeepers Association.

They advised would-be beekeepers to study or take a class before making an initial investment in bees that can cost hundreds of dollars. Larry said he still refers to "Beekeeping for Dummies," and Brenda pointed to several books she had pulled from shelves at Domonkas. They also suggested those interested check local ordinances that may govern beekeeping and to inform neighbors of their plans. Larry laughed as he recalled how his neighbors initially reacted to his plans to place a hive in their small yard. They overcame their hesitation and now lean over fences to chat as he and Brenda care for their bees.

Over the nearly 11 years they have kept bees, they have experienced successes and disasters. Three years ago, some of their bees left their hives on a late winter day when it was very warm and never returned when temperatures dropped.

An audience member asked why they don't try to keep the bees in the hive under those circumstances. Theurer laughed as he explained that bees do not relieve themselves in their houses. By late winter they need to get out for a while. They showed the stains bees left behind on clothing during this process.

Unusual temperature swings in late winter-early spring are problematic, they said. During cold months, bees cluster together for warmth keeping hive temperatures in the 90s, which keeps them alive.

They also discussed steps they have taken to combat a tiny mite known as Varroa brought to the U.S. on shipping containers from Asia and responsible for hive collapses around the country. They have used a natural product with success, they said.

Their passion for bees and beekeeping is obvious as they talk about the time they invest, worries they have about hive health and the occasional sting, which they maintain is caused by their missteps. Their reward is a harvest of honey and wax, which they sell. They shared a sample of honey with the audience while explaining how the color differences are clues to how strong honey will taste.

The couple demonstrated how wax and honey are removed, noting that when a hive is full of honey, it can weigh up to 100 pounds. Their Black Locust honey won first place at the Ohio State Fair during just their third year of beekeeping.

The Lorain County Beekeepers Association, loraincountybeekeepers.org,

meets at 7 p.m. the second Friday of the month at  Life Church, 1033 Elm St., in Grafton. Meetings are open to the public.

Michele Murphy is a freelance writer in Avon Lake.

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