City's sole beekeeper gets to workBees are good friends to have. We need them! A big thank you to Gaven and all the other devoted beekeepers in Maine who are lending a helping hand to our bee brothers.
By Linda Hersey
SOUTH PORTLAND (May 6, 2009): South Portland resident Phil Gaven placed a mail order for honey bees in 2008 and set off to share with neighbors the exciting news that he planned to keep a backyard hive and harvest the sweet rewards.
But then a homeowner in Gaven's densely developed Willard Beach neighborhood raised concerns that her young son might be allergic to bees.
Gaven quickly put the word out to friends and associates that he needed to find a surrogate home for his brood – and fast. A colony of Russian bees and a queen would be arriving any day.
It turned out not to be a problem. Brett Bigbee, an avid gardener who lives nearby, soon volunteered his yard, though the two men had never met.
Bigbee, who grows vegetables and has a few fruit trees, wanted to reap the benefits of having pollinating bees without the responsibility of tending to them.
Just like that, Gaven was back in business as South Portland's first and only registered beekeeper.
Today Gaven is the only resident to register a backyard hive. He is required to meet numerous conditions on the setup of the hive and care of his bees. But it is worth the work, he said.
"I always thought that was an interesting and unusual pastime. A couple of years ago I read at length about the plight of honeybees and colony collapse disorder and decided I would like to be part of the solution," said Gaven, a first-time beekeeper.
Gaven, who refers to himself as the neighborhood bee ambassador, has had early success with his unusual pastime.
Last fall, he collected 29 pounds of goldenrod honey from his hive, although veteran beekeepers had cautioned to expect a much smaller harvest, if anything at all, when starting a new hive.
Ross Little, who lives near Gaven, describes his friend and neighbor as "a remarkable man." Little said he uses Gaven's honey in his tea.
"It's the best honey I ever tasted. Phil is a good friend, which makes it all the more special."
Little admits that he thought "Phil was over the top and nutty as a fruitcake" when he first proposed the idea of keeping a beehive.
"I thought it was a crazy idea. Here we are living in this densely packed neighborhood,” he said. “But Phil made it work."
Gaven said he is discovering new uses for his honey all the time, explaining that it has anti-bacterial properties. Some people say that honey works as well as Neosporin ointment for scrapes, he said.
Bigbee works in his garden just few feet away from Gaven’s hive. He pays the honey bees little notice. "I guess you would say we respect each other," he said smiling. "We give each other space."
Gaven notes that fellow hobbyists joke that beekeepers develop their pastime because of the bees and quit their hobby because of the honey. A healthy hive produces an abundance of excess honey.
"I probably have a little honey almost every day," he said.
Gaven said one of his most enjoyable roles is showing his hive to visitors. "I like when newcomers come by to visit the hive and we stand around, as Yeats put it, 'alone in the bee-loud glade.' ” The bees come and go and pay very little attention to us."
Read the full article here: [Source]
Those interested in learning more about beekeeping in Maine can visit the Maine State Beekeepers Association website at www.mainebeekeepers.org. Find out about attending a session of Bee School and more! Join the bee brigade! Bzzzz!
Photo (c)Michelle Souliere.