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Fairfield County Beekeepers Are Saving Bees

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Beekeeping isn’t just for farmers anymore. Hobbyists are popping up all around Fairfield County.

For Fairfield residents Jim and Sandra Funk, becoming beekeepers was not intentional. Sandra said they started four years ago when a neighbor’s friend found a swarm that they transferred to the Funk’s front yard to a hive Jim built.

“I don’t know that we would have done it otherwise,” Sandra Funk said. Last summer they harvested around 20 pounds of honey, and their son, Ben, has become interested in helping to take care of the bees.

The growing interest in bees prompted the Greenwich Audubon to host a lecture by Gunther Hauk , a notable beekeeper from Virginia, on sustainable beekeeping practices. Hauk argues that the way honey bees will be saved is through the hobbyist keepers.

And the number of people putting hives in their back yards has doubled since 2000, said Fairfield resident Andrea Azarm.  She was a former board member of the Back Yard Beekeepers Association and attributes the increase in beekeepers to the increase of available information about the decline of bees.

“The recent growth is a result of all the news surrounding Colony Collapse Disorder ,” Azarm said, but also because of several documentaries and the number of gardeners.

A long time beekeeper, Mary Ann Tucker, said she keeps bees that were already on her property on Riversville Road in Greenwich.

“I saw that all my flowers were so heavy with pollen that honey bees were already coming. I just wanted to build them a home.”

The importance of the bees isn’t lost on newcomer John Borg, a Westport resident doing research for a possible hive in his future. He said one reason he wants a hive is because he wants his 3-year-old daughter to learn about the importance of nature. Also, he said he knows how important the honey bee is to nature.

The concern of Hauk is that the current practices in commercial and some hobbyist beekeeping isn’t the way nature wanted things to be. Most hobbyists have their bees trucked from the southern states with the queen separated from the hive.

“You raise queens artificially and there is a difference in the hive,” Hauk said,  suggesting that hobbyists get their bees more locally, within 100 miles of where they live.

Unfortunately, Azarm said that there aren’t enough bees in the Northeast to keep up with the demand from hobbyists, so they have to have their bees trucked in from the South.

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