| 2014 Q2 | story by LIZ WESLANDER | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
Richard Bean has been working with bees since the Nixon era. That may seem like a long time to some, but Richard reckons that 40 years is a relatively short amount of time when you consider the significant amount of changes he has seen during his beekeeping career.
“You used to be able to look at a hive that had died and know what had happened,” says Richard. “Now, there are so many things going on that you look at the hive, and you shake your head because you don’t know what happened.”
Richard attributes the challenge of maintaining healthy bees to changes in climate and to an increase in non-native beetles and mites that decimate hives. That said, Richard does not use pesticides or herbicides on any part of his 5-acre Blossom Trail Bee Ranch in Baldwin City. Instead, he chooses to focus on careful maintenance of his 60 honey-producing bee colonies. This includes removing pests by hand and adding a new queen to colony when one goes missing.
“Beyond that, If the bees are going to make it, they are going to make it on their own,” says Richard “I don’t see the long- term benefit of using something that they can’t manufacture on their own.”
Richard sells honey from his bees – along with eggs and produce from his farm- at the Lawrence Farmers Market. Both Lawrence HyVees also carry Blossom Trail Bee Ranch honey. While honey may be his bread and butter, it is safe to say that Richard’s higher calling is breeding healthy bee colonies and teaching the increasingly challenging art of beekeeping to people interested in maintaining their own hives.
“Interest has increased,” says Richard. “People are much more aware of the situation that honeybees are in and I’m only glad for that. I feel like I’m fulfilling a need.”
Richard is quick to clarify that although a lot of people show an interest in beekeeping, the number of people who are actually up to the task is limited.
“It’s not just setting up a hive and checking it a few times summer,” says Bean. “You have to be mindful of the colonies and look at them regularly to see how they are doing. There’s a lot to know and a lot to do – so many things that keep you on your toes.