Chickens have been the big thing for years now, and they’re still out there, clucking and laying (check out our story here about how to raise them). But have you noticed that lately everyone is abuzz about backyard beekeeping? All across the Hudson Valley, newly minted apiarists are setting up hives and chatting about smokers and pollen and royal jelly. Many are doing it to help counteract the massive colony-collapse scare a few years back, when billions of bees died of mysterious causes — a truly alarming phenomenon, given the vital role they play in pollinating crops. Dedicated gardeners and orchardists often keep bees to make sure their own crops will be pollinated.
Whether the reason is practical or altruistic, once the hives are set up and the colonies are established, the bees do their thing without making heavy demands on their keepers — and the payoff is free honey. Anyone who’s tasted fresh honey dripping from a honeycomb knows what a wonderful payoff that is.
If you fancy taking up beekeeping, you’ll find everything you need — from hives to special outfits with veiled helmets — at Hudson Valley Bee Supply in Kingston (hudsonvalleybeesupply.com). They also offer classes and workshops, books on the subject, mysterious-sounding tools like spur embedders, and the bees themselves, chosen for our region. Before you begin, check for any regulations in effect in your neighborhood. Honeybees are not aggressive, particularly the docile Russian bee, my research reveals, so getting stung isn’t a big risk, but it would be best to make sure your near neighbors have no deadly bee-sting allergies.
If tending hives sounds like yet more work in your already overextended life but you’d like that real honey mentioned earlier, stroll into Bumble and Hive on Market Street in Rhinebeck, a lovely shop offering many varieties along with other bee-related products. Honey is 20 percent off through March, so you can stock up.
Here are some reasons you should eat honey: It’s an anti-oxidant, an anti-bacterial, an anti-fungal, and it helps prevent gastrointestinal disorders. It’s also a probiotic, providing friendly bacteria for your insides; it helps the body regulate blood sugar levels; and a single spoon of buckwheat honey is just as effective as a synthetic cough suppressant, should you have a cough. Finally, King Solomon is quoted thus in Proverbs: “Eat thou honey, for it is good.” And he was famous for his wisdom.
P.S. Hudson Valley Restaurant Week ends on March 24. Lunch $20.95; dinner $29.95. Don’t miss out!