- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Beekeepers know the benefits of honeybees and are not afraid to wade through the swarming insects to perpetuate those gifts.

People keep bees for a variety of reasons, according to Alan Clingenpeel, president of the Greater Hot Springs Beekeepers Association.

Some keep them for honey production, others for pollination, and some because they are important to society’s food source.

“Every almond has to have a bee visit it,” he told The Sentinel-Record (https://bit.ly/1gUHOU7). Cucumbers have to have about 32 visits from an insect to be pollinated.

“Some crops will self-pollinate, but if you want to increase the yield in the crop, insect pollination greatly helps with that.”

According to the National Honey Board, major crops that depend on honeybees for pollination include alfalfa seeds, almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, kiwi fruits, pears, plums, sunflowers, vegetable seeds and watermelons.

Clingenpeel keeps bees for all three reasons. He has 50 hives that are scattered throughout various locations, depending on the need. He has several at his home in what is call an “apiary,” or bee yard, and some around Hot Springs, Pinnacle Mountain State Park and in the Delta around Pine Bluff.

Beehives can also be mobile, and beekeepers who make beekeeping a full-time job will travel across the country with their hives to pollinate crops, according to the National Honey Board.

Honey varies in thickness, color and flavor depending on the flower, Clingenpeel said.

“Cotton (honey) tends to be very sweet,” he said, adding that it is lighter and thinner. He said he has bees in an apple orchard, that also has some Chinese privet, which makes tasty honey.

“They are all different. What I try to do is I keep all my hives and flows separate,” he said.

Many times, people have acquired tastes to specific flowers.

“I have one gentleman that just wants cotton honey, because he was raised in Texas. That is what he is used to, so I always save him some cotton honey,” he said.

Honeycomb is edible, but Clingenpeel said he prefers not to produce comb honey because it takes a great deal of energy for the bees to produce the comb.

Honeybees make more honey than their colony needs, and on average a hive will produce about 80 pounds of surplus a year, according to the National Honey Board.

A beehive is made up of boxes with frames of wax comb on the inside. The bottom two boxes belong to the bees, Clingenpeel said. The boxes above the bottom two are called “supers,” and are where the honey is harvested.

The spring and early summer is the time for the honey flow, he said.

“This is the time of year that everything is blooming,” he said. “If you are a beekeeper you want to make sure you have healthy bees and have your population built up” he said, because now is the time they are working hard to produce honey.

When temperatures soar and the vegetation quits blooming here in the mountains, the bees will shut down, he said. “Most of my bees after that, that have honey, are in the Delta. They are in the cotton fields or they are on soybeans,” he said.

“Occasionally we’ll have a fall crop (here), but it’s hit or miss,” he said.

Beekeepers can move their bees to increase honey. Clingenpeel said he is in a rebuilding year, and there is more of a risk of over sprays of pesticides in the Delta area.

Clingenpeel says he had a rough year last year with the loss of bees. He and the Beekeepers Association decided to purchase packages of bees.

“I don’t do that very often, but last year we lost enough bees,” he said. They drove to Georgia and filled up the back of his truck with bees, he said.

Beekeepers can also acquire new hives by splitting an existing hive, he said. A split can happen when one hive gets too large. The beekeeper splits the hive and introduces a new queen, whether purchased or raised by the bees.

Swarm removal is another way to acquire a hive. A swarm is a split that occurs naturally, and can end up in a tree, a house or various places.

“Any beekeeper can take bees out of a house or capture a swarm, but they can’t charge for it,” he said, adding that they refer the job if it is more than they can handle.

The Beekeepers Association meets at 7 p.m. on the last Thursday of every month at Lake Hamilton Nazarene Church. Clingenpeel said it is open to anyone interested in bees.


Information from: The Sentinel-Record, https://www.hotsr.com

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