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Honey, let's make a beeline to a hive



Published: Fri, August 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



What is the buzz at the fair? Bees benefit farmers by pollinating crops.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Traveling no faster than 15 miles per hour, 1,000 workers routinely travel 55,000 miles making 2 million stops, all to produce one pound of product.

What keeps them buzzing?

Honey.

Producing the sweet, sticky substance is one of the honeybees' most labor-intensive jobs. It takes a hive of 80,000 bees one year to produce 65 pounds of honey -- 12 pounds to a gallon, said John T. Kulifay, past president of the Columbiana-Mahoning Beekeepers Association.

Close-up look: Kulifay is in charge of the Canfield Fair display where fairgoers can get a close-up look at honeybees in their hive.

A dozen bees together produce only one teaspoon of honey in their lifetimes, he said, and they don't live very long -- five weeks in the summer. They literally work themselves to death, wearing out their wings making up to 24 trips a day carrying nectar, or 50 trips a day carrying pollen.

A full load of nectar, Kulifay said, weighs 85 percent of what the bee does; a full load of pollen equals 35 percent of the bee's weight.

They live longer in the winter, up to three months, because they stay inside the hive flexing their wings to generate heat. Worker bees also tend to the queen and larvae, who must be fed.

Queens are the only females capable of producing offspring. In the spring, a new queen emerges, kills the other queen larvae, and takes over the hive.

The old queen leaves with half of the worker bees to start a new colony. All worker bees are female.

In the old colony, the new queen quickly goes to work, mating with up to 16 drones -- male bees whose sole purpose is to mate with the queen. This is all done during one mating flight, Kulifay noted. After the mating flight, the queen will lay up to 1,500 eggs a day without ever mating again.

It's a hobby: Most members of the Columbiana-Mahoning Beekeepers Association are hobbyists, Kulifay said. They keep bees because they enjoy it, not because they are looking to make a profit.

Hobby beekeepers usually break even, selling their honey for about what it costs to buy bees and beekeeping gear.

The real value of keeping bees, Kulifay continued, is in the pollinating services they provide.

In Northeast Ohio, honeybees are especially instrumental in pollinating apples and pumpkins. Nationwide, the value of bees' pollinating services, Kulifay said, is estimated at $14.6 billion.

The United States produces 200 million pounds of honey each year in four forms: liquid, which is most popular in this country.; creamed, which is most popular in Europe; comb honey, in which honey is encased in its edible wax comb; and chunk honey -- liquid honey that includes a piece of its natural wax comb, Kulifay said.

Bee benefits: Eating honey produced locally may help consumers overcome allergies to plants used to produce the honey, he offered. Research also is under way on bee venom, which may be beneficial in treating arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

The association's exhibit is in the fairgrounds' hay and grain building.

kubik@vindy.com




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