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Live and Learn focuses on Importance of Bees

By Josh Jones
Times Tribune Editor

jljones@timestribunenews.com 

TROY — There are few creatures that both humans and nature depend on as much as bees and local Apiarist Gwyn Marini wants people to know about bees, their benefits and how to keep bees safe whether you are a member of the public or an aspiring beekeeper. 

The Jarvis Township Senior Center held its monthly Live and Learn at the Wiesemeyer building last month with the presentation being called “The Importance of Bees”. Marini noted that she is a part-time beekeeper and currently has two hives at her residence, is working on a small apiary at Nilo farms in Brighton and has another hive at her father’s residence. 

“I have been keeping bees for about four years now, but I feel whether you have been doing it for one year, or doing it for 20 years you are always learning about beekeeping,” Marini said. 

Marini noted that there are several approaches to beekeeping and that if you go to another apiarist their answers and approaches may be very different from hers. 

“I am just hoping today that I will be able to educate you more about bees, beekeeping and some of the different things I use in beekeeping,” Marini said. 

Marini said that her grandfather kept bees, and she took an abbreviated class at Willoughby Heritage Farm, but she has mainly learned from her own experiences. She is a member of the St. Clair Beekeepers Association and has a couple of mentors in the organization. 

During her presentation, Marini showcased a beekeeper suit, a hand smoker that helps direct the bees, beeswax, honeycomb, honey and more. 

“I have two hives at my house right now and we have named them sweet and spicy. One of the hives is pretty sweet, they are pretty easy to handle… the other hive is pretty spicy,” Marini said. “You will have all varieties of personalities, some as soon as you open the lid they may try to sting you in the face. Other ones you can sit there and inspect them all day and they won’t try to sting you.”

Marini said that if a bee is smashed while placing back the lid, the other bees will release pheromones that may excite/agitate the other bees, but a hive’s queen is the main factor for determining aggression. She noted that in a hive the female bees are workers as well as the queen, while the male bees are drones. There are also several subset roles that female bees take throughout the life of a hive such as scouts, nurse bees and more. 

“The queen bee is the mother of the entire hive, so she is laying eggs for the entire hive,” Marini said. “So they are all her descendants, they are all going to have her genetics and personality.” 

Marini said that beekeepers may buy and replace a queen if they are not a fan of that hive’s personality type. She said that she personally finds her bees in the wild. 

“You can find them online, they can cost anywhere from $150 upwards for bees or you can go out in nature and catch them for free, which is the option I choose,” Marini said. 

Marini said that a bee swarm tends to be when bees are at their least aggressive as they are currently in the process of starting a new hive, hence they are lethargic from gorging on honey as well as don’t have a home/hive to defend. She said that it is important not to spray bees and if bees are an issue to contact a beekeeper to have them removed. If the bees are sprayed they cannot be saved. Many beekeepers also don’t charge for bee swarm removal as they want to save the bees and understand that money can be a barrier that keeps people from calling. 

“I have a couple empty hives that I am looking to fill, so I would love to come and get a swarm off of your hands,” Marini said. 

Marini recalled a bee swarm at Triad High School in the quad that she was called to remove right before dismissal. Beekeepers use what is called a nuc box. 

“They were on this T sculpture, I put a tarp down, I put a nuc box under the bee swarm,” Marini said. “If you have more time, some beekeepers will find the queen, put her in a little cage, and put her in the box and the other bees will just march into the box, because they want to be where she is. This one I didn’t have the luxury of time, so I just put the box underneath, took my hands and just scooped them and they all just fell into the box. As long as the queen goes in and stays, they will follow her.” 

The box is left overnight, so that scouts and other bees can return. Sugar water is often sprayed to keep bees wet and busy cleaning to make them easier to stay and be moved. 

Other topics during the presentation included pests/threats to bees, extracting honey, state ordinances and more. 

For more information on Marini’s beekeeping people may visit “1/4 Acre Farms” Facebook page. The World Bird Sanctuary Live and Learn will take place at 1 p.m. April 24th at the Wiesemeyer Building. The event will allow people to see several birds of prey up close and effects to rehabilitate and protect them. RSVP is appreciated and people may call (618) 667-2022.

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