All abuzz with new hobby

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead East

There are bee­keep­ers and then there are Bee­keep­ers, those self-suf­fi­cient souls who care for their bees care­fully and lov­ingly, with the re­spect that those fas­ci­nat­ing, vi­tal and en­dan­gered crea­tures de­serve. Ray­mond Belanger, of Stanstead

East, is just one of those bee­keep­ers, tak­ing up the hobby right af­ter he fin­ished a bee­keep­ing course at the Ma­gog Com­mu­nity Learn­ing Cen­tre, about five years ago.

“I wanted a hobby af­ter I re­tired so I took the course, and I was hooked. Ev­ery­one in that course de­cided to go ahead and start bee­keep­ing, so we started a club called Hive Hap­pen­ings,” ex­plained Mr. Belanger en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “We’ve all be­come good friends.”

Al­though Ray­mond keeps only four hives and has only been at it a few years, his knowl­edge about bees is ex­ten­sive. “A bee lives only about six weeks in the sum­mer. For the first few weeks they are house’ bees, clean­ing, feed­ing the queen, pro­cess­ing the nec­tar and pollen into honey, and mak­ing hon­ey­comb. Then they be­come guard bees for a while, pro­tect­ing the hive from other bees and wasps,” said Mr. Belanger. Fi­nally, th­ese fe­male bees spend their last few weeks col­lect­ing nec- tar and pollen, vir­tu­ally wear­ing them­selves out in the process. n the old bees, you can see their wings all worn down.”

Male bees, or drones, on the other hand, lead quite a dif­fer­ent life. “A drone bee watches T , smokes cigars and just waits for the queen to emerge,” joked Mr. Belanger as he de­scribed the seden­tary life of the male drone. “But lots of women ap­pre­ci­ate this part: in the fall, the fe­male bees say you lazy things’ and kick them all out of the hive ”

It was a lit­tle sur­pris­ing to learn from Mr. Belanger how the bees make honey. “The house bee will re­move the pollen from the legs of the bees re­turn­ing to the hive. Then they process it by chew­ing it and spit­ting it out. ne bee, in its life­time, will gather enough pollen and nec­tar to make only about one six­teenth of a tea­spoon of honey,” said the bee­keeper.

Al­though get­ting stung now and again seems to come with the ter­ri­tory of be­ing a bee­keeper, the bees gen­er­ally leave all of Ray­mond and his wife Linda’s grand­chil­dren and vis­i­tors alone. “Some­times some­one is wear­ing a cer­tain per­fume, or af­ter­shave, or straw­berry sham­poo; now that can cause a bit of a panic. But we’re in the back­yard a lot with our grand­kids and we never get both­ered by the bees,” said Linda who helps with the bee­keep­ing, spe­cial­iz­ing in mak­ing beeswax can­dles.

“I learnt pretty quick that you only go into your hive on a nice sunny day when half of the bees are out. ou don’t open it up on a windy or rainy day, or at night. nce, when I got home at night from the fair with the bees, I tried to put them back in their hive and they chased me down the road ”ad­mit­ted Ray­mond.

But the en­deavor is well worth the ef­fort, pro­vid­ing enough liq­uid gold’ for the Belanger fam­ily and a few lucky friends and rel­a­tives. Be­sides col- lect­ing and bot­tling pure honey, Ray­mond also likes to make other tasty and ben­e­fi­cial honey prod­ucts like co­conut honey but­ter, al­mond honey but­ter, cran­berry orange flavoured creamed honey, and he’ll have a few jars for sale at ardin-des-Fron­tieres’ up­com­ing craft sale on Novem­ber 2 th. He and Linda have also ex­per­i­mented mak­ing honey gin­ger ale and honey body prod­ucts.

Ray­mond’s bees are now wait­ing for win­ter to ar­rive, like the rest of us. “We stop tak­ing honey from our hives right af­ter La­bor Day so that what­ever they pro­duce af­ter that is theirs for the win­ter. They worked hard all sum­mer so they de­serve it. Even with a good honey sup­ply, bees can some­times starve to death in the win­ter. Some peo­ple bring their bees into the barn, but you can’t warm them un­nat­u­rally. Too much mois­ture can de­velop in the hive and will kill them be­fore the cold will.”

“My favourite part about bee­keep­ing is go­ing to the Ayer’s Cliff Fair,” said Ray­mond who has set up a work­ing hive in the Hor­ti­cul­ture Build­ing for the last few years. “My Grand­fa­ther and fa­ther went and my un­cles all ex­hib­ited in the Hor­ti­cul­ture Build­ing I grew up go­ing to the Fair.

I re­ally en­joy talk­ing about bees with the chil­dren; they all want to find the queen bee,” ex­plained Mr. Belanger who con­tin­ued: “I talk to the chil­dren and the adults about how im­por­tant bees are when it comes to pol­li­nat­ing our fruits and veg­eta­bles. With all the fruits and veg­eta­bles and beau­ti­ful flow­ers all around, the Hor­ti­cul­ture Build­ing is a per­fect spot to talk about it.”

It is said that sev­enty of the top one hun­dred hu­man food crops, which sup­ply about 90 per­cent of the world’s nu­tri­tion, are pol­li­nated by bees. Un­for­tu­nately, bee pop­u­la­tions are de­clin­ing dras­ti­cally for a num­ber of rea­sons. “The bees are be­ing af­fected by the plant­ing of treated seeds, the spray­ing of in­sec­ti­cides, the use of neon­i­coti­noids…and once the bees are

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Ray­mond Belanger con­trols mites in his hive the chem­i­cal-free way by freez­ing his bee frames tem­po­rar­ily.

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