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To bee or not to bee?


Crook County residents are hoping to start a local beekeeping group

by: KEVIN SPERL - A group of beekeepers inspect a hive frame looking for the queen bee.

Andy Schutz wanted to create some buzz about beekeeping in Central Oregon and, judging by the number of beekeepers hovering around his hives last week, he succeeded.

Hoping to generate interest in starting a local beekeepers club, Schutz invited Central Oregon Beekeepers Association's Richard Nichols and Naomi Price to his hives on Southeast Paulina Highway.

"I've been doing this for 25 years," said Schutz, "And you just never know everything."

The beekeepers, and those hoping to become one, had come to see Nichols demonstrate "building a nuc."

All of the participants were dressed, from head to toe, in beekeeper suits, including a netted veil for the head, and gloves.

The suits are white to enable bees to distinguish beekeepers from their natural predators -- bears with dark fur.

The only one who didn't appear to know this beforehand was this reporter who arrived in a black jacket.

"You know that black is bad to wear around bees, don't you?" asked Schutz.

As Nichols suited up in what appeared to be a space suit, he demonstrated how secure all of the openings needed to be before dealing with bees.

"You see this zipper?" he asked, "If this is not zipped shut tightly, the bees will get in. They can find the smallest hole to get through."

Nichols then gathered the bee enthusiasts around Schutz’s hives.

“Today’s task is to take a single working hive and split it in two,” said Nichols to the group. “That sounds a lot easier than it is.”

Nichols explained that a nuc, a multi-frame new hive nucleus complete with a queen bee, is the typical method for starting a new hive from an already existing one.

“The only way you are going to learn how to build a nuc is to actually do it yourself,” said Nichols. “You don’t learn how to shoot a gun by watching somebody else.”

For Schutz, the gathering is simply a group of people who want to help bees survive.

“We are constantly fighting things like Colony Collapse Disorder and the presence of Varroa Mites,” he said.

Schutz explained that CCD results from the sudden disappearance of worker bees from a hive, possibly caused by pesticide use, mites, or malnutrition.

Varroa Mites are external parasites that attach to the body of a bee sucking its blood, resulting in open wounds that leave a bee susceptible to infection.

On a cloudy, windy, and chilly day, less than ideal conditions for disturbing bees, Schutz is the only one not wearing a protective suit, and proceeds to get stung near his left eye.

“Wow, that one’s gonna hurt,” he said, without missing a beat as he helped move frames to the nuc.

While the group worked, Price explained to them that hives are comprised of worker and drone bees, all in support of the hive’s queen.

“Bees will know in 10 minutes that a new hive does not have a queen,” explained Price, referring to the nuc. “And, within 40 minutes, they go about making a new one.”

As the group successfully followed the instructions of Nichols, creating a new hive from which a queen would emerge, Schutz told the group that they had saved him $35, the cost of buying a queen.

More importantly, Schutz was just happy to see the enthusiastic attitude of those in attendance.

“Many of us can’t always get to Bend to learn about bees,” said Schutz. “We want to start a beekeepers club here in Prineville, raising bees that are unique to Central Oregon.”

For more information visit http://www.cobeekeeping.org/.