What started as a hobby with no aspirations or desire to be anything more than that has turned into a full-time occupation and passion of mine. Growing up as a native to the Upper Valley Region of New Hampshire and Vermont, I had no idea that one could make a peaceful living from working with bees. In time, becoming more knowledgeable in the craft I befriended two commercial beekeepers from the Champlain Valley region of Vermont. Visiting their apiaries and working alongside them gave me insight into a world that I quickly fell in love with, living and working alongside the honey bee.
Gleaning from what I had learned and experienced, in 2010 I was driven and motivated to start down the path of growing my avocation with beekeeping into my vocation. It has been anything but easy. Lots of hard work with no pay, often seeing and experiencing failure and setbacks for the first few years. Especially when I decided to wean the apiary off of ALL and ANY treatments for mites and other ailments. Being that from the beginning, with the paradigm that I had chosen to run the apiary off of I was able to experience large colony mortality rates every winter, and still be sustaining growth and profitability in the next season, all from within the apiary itself. Looking back I am continually humbled by working alongside the honey bee. I often underestimate her vigor, hard work and resilience to the environment that surrounds her. Looking forward I am hopeful and extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside such a complex and amazing creature.
I consider my breeding program to be the heart and backbone of my apiary. It is the reason why I decided back in 2010 to run the whole operation without treatments. I thought to myself. How can I know how to go about excluding and selecting any strain of bee for winter hardiness, high mite tolerance, and honey production if they need a crutch to stand on? How would I go about every spring in knowing that the breeder queens I have selected possess high mite tolerance if I treated them all in the previous season for mites? (I found it difficult to treat some colonies and not treat others) I truly believe that the varroa mite is showing us where our bees are weak and if given the opportunity where natural selection pressures and a breeding program can be used alongside each other eventually a balance between bee and mite may be achieved.
All queens are open mated. I am fortunate to live in a location where there is no other commercial beekeeping activity to contend with in regards to drone stock. Targeting desired drones around the mating yard has been crucial in developing and maintaining family crosses
Most of the genetic makeup in my bees are Carniolan. I do maintain several families that are of Russian descent.
All potential breeders are at least two years old and have made it through two New England winters, produced a honey corp and made it thus far without any treatments. On the first major honey flow, I like to see these queens with 9+ frames of brood. Currently, I am maintaining 8 different families so every season I like to propagate around half of the families and use the other half to produce the drones that this year's queens will mate with.
These colonies are made up on the summer honey flow, given a newly mated queen from the mating yard then left alone to expand the broodnest and pack away honey for the winter ahead. When you take possession of your nuc it has already made it through one winter, lead by a young queen in the prime of her life. Its amazing at how quickly these colonies grow. I will not sell a nucleus colony of bees that has anything less than the fallowing. A frame of honey 3 frames of brood and a frame of foundation.
As a beekeeper there is nothing more rewarding and exciting than to harvest a crop of honey. All the hard work that has taken all season long for the bees to produce. Just the right amount of rain and sun at the right time in the right location for blossoms to produce nectar, for the bees to collect and ripen into honey.
Here in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont the major nectar sources that make up a majority of the honey crop are basswood (linden), white clover, dutch clover, honey suckle, locust, sumac, golden rod, japanese knotweed and asters. All honey is unheated (raw) and filtered by letting gravity settle out any large wax particles and particulates.