- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

WAYNEDALE, Ind. (AP) - It’s the best-kept secret in Waynedale.

Founded in 1938, the Southwest Conservation Club lies hidden behind shrubbery, home to four ponds, along with shooting and archery ranges. But it’s the recently established apiary that’s become the talk of the area, and it all started with SWCC members Megan Ryan and Alex Cornwell.

“We wanted to do something that matched the mission of the club,” Ryan said. “Bee conservation is just a natural way to do that.”

The two brought the idea of having a bee committee to the club in February. By April, the apiary had been constructed, and the bees had been put in.

Having been members of the club for two years, Ryan and Cornwell had taken a strong interest in bee conservation, especially in light of the mysterious disappearance of honey bees that’s puzzled both beekeepers and scientists. While theories suggest mites and pesticides as possible reasons, there’s still no exact explanation for the disappearances.

But for now, all is good for the Italian honeybees Ryan and Cornwell are keeping in the SWCC apiary.

“The bees are doing really well here. This is a good environment for them,” Ryan said. “It’s safe (and) there’s tons of fauna for them to pollinate from.”

“And we haven’t been stung yet,” said Cornwell, laughing.

But the two beekeepers aren’t only thinking about themselves when it comes to working with the apiary. Word is getting out, and people are asking more and more questions about the bees.

“We hope to. have an educational component,” Ryan said. “We would love to be able to bring people out (to) see the hives and have almost like a little class to learn about the bees and to see (them).”

Besides serving as both a place for conservation and education, the apiary will also be used for funding the SWCC through the constant sales of honey. That’s expected to come in the second year of operation. But along with the honey comes the pollen, which, if sold locally within seven to 10 miles of the apiary, has been said to help with allergies.

While the apiary has produced a three-fold benefit, Ryan and Cornwell are encouraging people to start beehives of their own for the same reasons.

“Anybody can do it,” Cornwell said. “In Fort Wayne, even if you’re at a residence, you can keep bees.”

While managing the committee required a significant amount of work for two people, the beekeepers have enjoyed every minute of it.

“We look at it as a hobby 99 percent of the time,” Cornwell said. “It’s like a glorified ant farm, you get to watch (the bees) all do different things.”

Ryan agreed.

“If I could, I would take care of bees every day all day,” Ryan said.

Ryan teaches special education at Bishop Luers High School, while Cornwell is an entrepreneur, managing the business portion of the Bee Committee.

While the apiary’s first season has been a learning curve for the beekeepers, Cornwell and Ryan are looking to grow their organization come next April.

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Source: The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel, https://bit.ly/1RhOp7k

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Information from: The News-Sentinel, https://www.news-sentinel.com/ns

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