Learning the ABeeCs at Wakeman Town Farm
The buzz these days about Wakeman Town Farm is all about bees.
Beekeeper Leslie Huston, of Bee Commerce, visited Saturday morning to lead an educational class about backyard beekeeping.
Initially gathered under the shade of a tree at the Cross Highway farm, the group moved indoors because of a sudden downpour. But the instruction continued on the equipment and practices needed to start a hive and maintain it.
"It takes a few hundred dollars to get started," explained Huston. "Most of the cost is equipment, which will last you 20 years if you take care of it. Three pounds of bees and a queen cost about $100. Other equipment includes a smoker, veil, hive tool, gloves, a medium hive with 10 frames and sugar."
Huston said the first year is the most challenging for a new beekeeper. "I attended a talk recently and a participant said, `Don't count on your bees making it through the first winter,' " Huston noted.
Bees are very sensitive to temperature changes and require a carefully prepared and monitored food supply during the cold months.
"I had everything go wrong the first year," admitted Huston. "I'd get stung in the finger and my whole hand would swell up. I thought I was allergic, but the doctor said the swelling was localized and that was OK. I still may get stung now, but hardly get any swelling. Our bodies build up an immunity over time."
Marty Yellin, a Westport resident and worker at Wakeman Town Farm, said he has been interested in starting to maintain a beehive. "I think I'll join the Backyard Beekeeping Association and get started with bees next year," he said.
Florie Ricciuti said she has a garden in Madison that she shares with her brother, and is considering establishing a bee hive there. "Bees are such amazing insects," she said. "How they divide labor, etc. Without them, we wouldn't exist."