Meet the Beekeepers

By & / Photography By Cayla Zahoran | July 25, 2013
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Meet The Beekeepers

Darci Sanner
owner of Summer Smiles Honey

Her experience with Colony Collapse Disorder: “I have not experienced CCD, but it certainly is an issue. In short, I believe the main causes of CCD are the use of pesticides and other chemicals used in our food production and land/yard maintenance, as well as GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds/crops. A lack of natural non-GMO bee forage is causing the bees to become malnourished, so their immune system is very weak, which make fighting nosema (a parasite that affects insects) and mites a lot more difficult.”

Most rewarding aspect of beekeeping: “My reward is that I am doing my part for Mother Nature, and while doing my part, I feel like time stands still. I absolutely love everything about honeybees — stings, wax, honey, pollen, etc. They are truly amazing! Helping to sustain and preserve the honeybees and the environment is my main focus.”

Most popular honey products: Raw honey. “I sell out within a week of harvesting. However, my cold-processed honey and beeswax soaps are a top favorite, as well as my Wonder Balm, a heal- all, cure-all natural beeswax balm.”

Summer Smiles Honey, Johnstown. 814.525.0306.

Steve Repasky
EAS Master Beekeper, owner of Meadow Sweet Apiaries, and president and community apiary director for Burgh Bees

His experience with Colony Collapse Disorder: “Colony Collapse Disorder is a name for a collection of symptoms related to the collapse of a honeybee colony. These symptoms include having a hive that contains no adult bees and a lack of dead bees in and around the colony. All that remains is a capped brood, a small number of bees and the queen. The food stores that remain are not robbed by neighboring bees or other colony pests. It is believed that CCD is caused by several agents working in tangent and not just one particular cause. Pesticides, nutrition, pests, such as the varroa mite, habitat destruction, stress, and genetics are all factors related to CCD. It was first found in 2006, and since that time, winter losses have hovered around 30 percent compared to 10 to 15 percent prior to 2006. This winter, many beekeepers in Western Pennsylvania averaged 50 percent or higher losses.”

Most rewarding aspect of beekeeping: “There are many rewards related to beekeeping. For me, it’s not just one thing. 

Honeybees are fascinating creatures, and there is so much that we don’t know about them. Working with the bees in a hive is an experience in itself — watching some bees feeding young larvae, others bringing in pollen, yet other doing a waggle dance showing other workers where to find nectar, pollen, propolis, or water. Of course, there is the honey, too! That’s a sweet reward! I also find enjoyment in mentoring new beekeepers and teaching classes, raising queens, selling at the Sewickley Farmers Market, and even more so, watching others get caught up in the excitement of being an urban beekeeper.”

Most popular honey products: “Honey is number one on the list, followed closely by my lip balms, pollen, lotion bars, creamed honey, and infused honeys.”

Meadow Sweet Apiaries, 412.445.7872.

Karen Mosholder
owner of BumbleBerry Farms

Her experience with Colony Collapse Disorder: “There is no found cause yet for CCD, though many beekeepers believe the primary cause is the use of pesticides that fall under the category of neonicotinoids, which were introduced in the 1990s, about the time that we started to see a significant decline in the honeybee population. While waiting for more concrete data to link the honeybee deaths to pesticides, the European Union has already banned their use. I’ve been a beekeeper for about five years now and have up until this point lost only one colony, until this year, when 80 percent of my honeybee population didn’t make it. It does appear to be Colony Collapse Disorder. I’ve been able to build up my colonies over the summer with the help of area residents who’ve called me to capture swarms in their area. It seems to be a good summer for honey, and the bees are thriving.”

Most rewarding aspect of beekeeping: “Seeing my colonies thrive. As a community, we need to be doing more of that — realizing that humans can only be healthy if they keep their planet and its creatures healthy as well.”

Most popular honey products: Honey and honey crèmes, such as Mayan Honey Cocoa, Salted Honey Caramel, and Honey Maple.

BumbleBerry Farms Heritage Select Honeys, 124 Woodside Drive, Somerset. 814.279.8083.

Jennie Wood
co-owner of SteffesWood Apiary with Robert Steffes

Their experience with Colony Collapse Disorder: “CCD, which was first noticed in 2006, startled beekeepers because unlike typical winter losses, the bees are simply gone. Normally, when a colony does not make it through the winter, the dead bees are in the hive body; with colony collapse, there are just a few bees in the hive body — the queen and perhaps little brood. While colony collapse is a big concern, there are many other issues facing honeybees: the varroa mite, rampant use of pesticides, loss of foraging, mono-cropping, and a lot of other issues that have an impact on all pollinators. We haven’t seen this specific condition with our bees, though we have considerable winter losses. We had about 15 colonies going into the winter and lost about half of them.”

Most rewarding aspect of beekeeping: “One of the most amazing rewards is the window on their world that they offer. They make me very aware of my environment, especially what’s blooming at each moment and what’s going on with the weather. In addition to making me very conscious of my environment, the honeybees are also the most fascinating creatures. They are a remarkable society, and learning about that and seeing how they work together has been so engaging. And finally, with honeybees, there’s always something to learn. I love that about them!”

Most popular honey products: Seasonal honey, lip balm, hand cream, beeswax candles, including the candle bowls made of beeswax.

SteffesWood Apiary, Aliquippa. 724.378.7204.

Royal Draper
of Draper’s Super Bee Apiaries

His experience with Colony Collapse Disorder: “We are a family of beekeepers and have been in business for 40 years now. We have seen a lot of changes over the years in the industry. Yes, we have encountered Colony Collapse Disorder in our own operation, and I believe that there is not a single cause but a combination of many factors that are contributing to the loss of the honeybees. Despite what some say, I firmly believe that GMOs are a large contributor to the problem along with pesticide use, global pollution, climate change, and even breeding practices by the bees producers. There is no simple answer to this problem.”

Most rewarding aspect of beekeeping: “Despite all of the issues that we currently are facing, I have caught what my grandfather called ‘the bee fever,’ which means it would be hard for me not to have bees. Every day, I see what amazing little flying miracles they truly are. To be able to work outside and sit down and have my lunch among the flying bees is something that is hard to explain. We really are farmers, and like any farmer, we have our ups and downs, and I feel sorry for all of those people that will never get to experience the wonders of working the land, raising livestock or keeping bees. We are all a dying breed much like the honeybees.”

Most popular honey products: “Honey is our number one seller, and we offer many domestically produced varieties, but because of the loss of bees we have less than we once did. We do have alfalfa, buckwheat, clover, goldenrod, orange blossom, and wildflower [varieties]. We also sell bee pollen, beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly.”

Draper’s Super Bee Apiaries, 32 Avonlea Lane, Millerton. 570.537.2727.

Sara Bedillion
owner of Bedillion Honey Farm

Her experience with Colony Collapse Disorder: “We can’t speak to it personally, but we have spoken to lots of other folks who have had losses they can’t explain. Whether it was due to pesticides, varroa mites, or other pests, poor nutrition, challenging weather, or all of the above, we still don’t know! We think it’s important to think of honeybee colonies as you would any other livestock, such as cows and pigs. They require the same things: healthy shelter, food and water, protection from pests and predators, and regular attention and monitoring from their keepers.”

Most rewarding aspect of beekeeping: “The most rewarding thing about keeping bees, aside from the wonderful things they make, is seeing healthy, thriving colonies. When we can look out the back door and see the air full of flying bees or open a hive and see bees bubble out the top, we definitely get a thrill. They are magnificent creatures. The taste of honey from your backyard or the scent of a beeswax candle is pretty magnificent, too!”

Most popular honey products: Liquid honey, creamed honey, comb honey, and lavender-infused honey. “We also do a little candle and soap making with the beeswax and honey. Most recently, the bees and beekeeping lessons have become popular products as more people try their hand at beekeeping.”

Bedillion Honey Farm, 1179 Burgettstown Road, Hickory. 724.356.7713.

more bee resources:

Back Yard Beekeepers Association 

Burgh Bees

Eastern Apicultural Society

National Honey Board

Where To Get Local Honey

Where To Get Local Honey
Where To Get Local Honey
Where To Get Local
Photo 1: From left: Meadow Sweet Apiaries Spring Bee Sweet Honey, available at Meadow Sweet Apiaries. Heritage Select Wildflower Honey, available at BumbleBerry Farms. Drapers Super Bee Apiaries Buckwheat Pure Honey, available at East End Food Co-op.
Photo 2: From left: Meadow Sweet Apiaries Summer Bee Sweet Honey, available at Meadow Sweet Apiaries. AE Leslie Apiary Honey, varieties include orange blossom, wildflower, clover, and goldenrod, available at Wild Purveyors. These delicious flavors are procured from hives in Fort Hill, Pa. Ed’s Honey Bee Products Pure Clover Honey, available at the East Liberty Farmers Market.
Photo 3: From left: Meadow Sweet Apiaries Fall Bee Sweet Honey, available at Meadow Sweet Apiaries. Limited Edition Blueberry Blossom Maple Valley Farms Pure Honey, available at East End Food Co-op. Bee Happy Mint-Infused Honey, available at SteffesWood Apiary.
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