If you ask two beekeepers the same question, you’ll get three different answers. At least, this is according to Jeannie and Ralph Perkins—two local beekeepers. When asked about the unique traits of beekeeping in Colchester, the Perkins’ assertion seems to be true. “It’s not an exact science,” explained Ralph—nor is there a simple answer.
The pair began keeping bees a few years ago and have learned, through research, workshops and experience, some of the unique traits of beekeeping in Colchester.
It all began when their daughter moved to a new state, into a new house, with lots of roommates—one of which keeps bees.
“She’s been terrified of bees all her life,” said Jeannie laughing. “We were shocked. This is the type of girl who would hear there’s a bee somewhere and run out screaming.”
But a few weeks later, their daughter sent them a picture of herself in a white apiarist suit, and the Colchester couple were inspired to try it for themselves.
Over the last few years taking care of hives and learning about bees, Jeannie said her respect towards bees has grown. “Our role is to not quite take care of them but to be a part of what’s happening; participate in the natural process,” she said. “I’m more conscious of their work. And she feels a little guilty extracting honey from their comb—”they worked so hard all year for that!”
The pair also noted that the hobby has made them tune into nature and their surroundings more. “You have to keep an eye on what’s flowering for them,” explained Ralph. Usually the bees gravitate towards honeysuckle, golden rod, and other wildflowers, he said. But apparently, they have no love for the Vermont state flower.
“Ralph planted red clover as a cover crop,” recalled Jeannie, to enrich the soil in their yard, hoping the bees might like it. “Turns out they didn’t like it,” she laughed. The white clover Ralph planted since, the bees like much better.
“You think a lot more about nature and what’s around us,” said Jeannie. But one of the difficult aspects they’ve encountered with nature is timing. “You can’t manage nature; it isn’t flexible with your schedule,” said Ralph.
The Perkins’ have also learned more about beekeeping through workshops with the Vermont Beekeepers Association, where they’ve met other novice apiarists. Many of the workshops often pair with the season, coinciding with what a beekeeper should be doing at that point in the year.
“The importance of bees is on people’s minds,” said Jeannie. “And it’s also a nice thing that we can do together.”
Plus, she said, the honey is delicious.
To learn more about beekeeping in Vermont and how to get your own hive started, visit vermontbeekeepers.org.