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April 12, 2014

Local woman considers working with honey bees a sweet job

TIFTON — The mere sight of a honey bee swarm may frighten some people, but not local woman Lorie Marchant who’s found an interest in them and decided to become a beekeeper two years ago.

She says the main thing that she’s trying to do is save honey bees and teach people about them so that “they learn not to fear them the way that they do.” She said beekeeping is not just a hobby for her, it’s a lifestyle.

“I care about it and I want to help,” Marchant said.

In 2012, she became interested in honey bees and beekeeping. When asked how this started, she said sometimes she feels like she’s led to do things and the ideas just come to her. She noted she was once in the medical field but had always had an interest in accounting. She decided to go back to college, earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting in 2008.

“If it comes to me and my heart leads me, I just follow it,” Marchant said.

With her being a person who enjoys the outdoors, beekeeping came naturally.

“That brings me peace to do things outdoors,” she commented.

She said she’s always wanted to live on a farm, but she currently lives in town and works full time in Fitzgerald.

Marchant said she didn’t realize that she had such an interest in honey bees. She said after watching movies and reading books that mentioned bees, the idea came to her.

“One day it just hit me — ‘I really want to do that,’” she said. She started calling every beekeeper that she could get a telephone number for. If she rode by a place and spotted bee hives, she would get the address off of the mailbox and then write the resident a letter, asking them to call her, which they did.

“Beekeepers are the greatest people,” Marchant said.

She said if she wants to learn anything, she browses the Internet or goes to the library for books to read. She said there’s not many beekeepers locally, but they each have their own way of doing things.

Marchant said when she first started out as a beekeeper, she bought a hive, put it together and put it in her backyard. She ordered her first package of bees from H&R Apiaries in Jesup. She went home and put her bees in her hive. Before she knew it, she had enough bees to learn how to split them to make two hives and to make queens.

“There’s just so much details to it,” she said.

Going into her third year as a beekeeper, Marchant says she enjoys what she’s doing. When asked was she nervous when she had to suit up for the first time, she said she was more worried about hurting the bees, because they have to be handled correctly.

“I found out really quick that honey bees are not wasps or yellow jackets,” she said. “They’re so gentle if you handle them at the right time, which is on a sunny day. It needs to be a certain temperature, warm.”

She said she’s only been stung once, which was an accident. She said she hasn’t had any of her bees just sting her, noting that she’s had a lot of bees.

Marchant said her hives were located outside at her home. However, she’s also had them inside her home before in an observation hive. She explained that this is a hive with glass on both sides. It’s kept inside the house and a tube runs from the hive to out a window.

She said putting together a hive is like putting together a puzzle. She said it’s relaxing. She gets her supplies from Rossman Apiaries in Moultrie.

Marchant said she’s also tried doing organic beekeeping without any medicine or chemicals in the hives.

“I just wanted to put the bees in the hives and let them naturally do what they needed to do and disrupt them as little as possible,” she said. “A lot of beekeepers will tell you that you need to check your bees every week — open the hives, take out the frames, look at the bees.”

She said she tries to start out checking them maybe every couple of weeks. She said varroa mites, beetles and wax moths could affect the hives.

Marchant said her first year as a beekeeper, she had six or seven hives and a hive at her sister’s house. With her working long hours, she couldn’t keep a check on the hives as much as she wanted to. She said when the honey bees swarm out of the hives, it’s a natural process. This is how they continue to exist.

Last year, she started out with three or four hives. By the end of the year, she had none except for the one at her sister’s house. She now plans to collect swarms and replenish her stock and fill the hives. She plans to convert her shed/barn into a honey house.

Marchant said she’s in this business because she wants to save honey bees. One day when she has more spare time, she hopes to buy five or six acres of land and have as many hives as she can and work with bees full time. She said but right now, it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the service she provides. She said since becoming a beekeeper, she has collected a hive of bees ranging from the size of a basketball to much larger. She said collecting the bees and taking them home to put in a hive is interesting to watch. They sense where the queen is.

Marchant explained that the queen is a bit bigger than a worker bee and has a longer, slender body. The drones are the males whose primary purpose is for mating. Females make up the majority of the hive, except for a few drones.

According to Marchant, beekeeping has been practiced around the world using various methods for thousands of years. Honey bees pollinate around 80 percent of agricultural crops. Wax has many practical uses such as candle making and cosmetics.

Marchant said honey has also been treasured by mankind for its many health benefits and uses. Honey is the only food that does not spoil. Edible honey was even found in the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. A single honey bee will visit hundreds or thousands of flowers each day. Honey bees have to collect nectar from around two million flowers and fly more than 50,000 miles to make one pound of honey. They may visit more than 1,000 flowers to gather a load of pollen.

Honey bees usually travel around two to three miles to collect pollen and nectar. Bees communicate directions to a forage area to the other members of the colony by sharing nectar and by doing the “waggle dance.” Marchant explained that this dance communicates distance and direction to the other bees.

She said honey bees are the only insect that produces food that is eaten by humans. Honey is the only food that includes all of the enzymes, vitamins, water and minerals that can sustain life.

“It is great as a sugar substitute in recipes and also has been used for thousands of years to treat ailments and improve overall health,” Marchant added. “Honey could contain C. botulinum spores (spore-forming bacterium that produces a very powerful neurotoxin that causes botulism), so it should not be fed to children under one year of age.”

She provided the following important facts about honey bees:

• Current annual losses in honey bee colonies reported by beekeepers have ranged from 30 to 90 percent.

• Colony Collapse Disorder is characterized by a loss of adult bees in a hive which still may contain a queen, brood, pollen and honey, but little or no dead bees.

• There are many factors that have been attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder and other honey bee losses. Some include, but are not limited to, pesticides varroa mites, hive beetles, wax moths, viruses, loss of genetic diversity, malnutrition, parasitic flies and genetically modified crops. But as of yet, there is no scientific proof to confirm what is causing these losses.

• Around 80 percent of agricultural crops depend on honey bee pollination. Honey bee pollination increases crop value each year by billions of dollars.

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Jensen Rainey (left) and Josie Arant will both be participating in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship next week in North Carolina.

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