The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

July 30, 2012

Fayette beekeepers swarm to meeting

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

FAYETTEVILLE — Honey super, worker brood, queen castle — beekeepers have a unique language all their own. And in Fayette County, honey harvesters are talking to each other more than ever before.

The Fayette County Beekeeper’s Association is a fledgling group aimed at networking and education for those interested in beekeeping as a hobby or commercial enterprise.

“Educate and pollinate,” says John Brenemen Jr., one of the organization’s founders, summing up the group’s goals. Brenemen also sells bee keeping equipment to a growing number of beekeepers in his home county.

The group hosted its second meeting last Monday at Fayetteville Presbyterian Church. A crowd of 35 listened to advice and instruction from Rebecca Moretto, an apiary specialist from Mercer County who works with the Department of Agriculture.

One thing was clear from her presentation.

“I love my bees,” said Moretto, who tends around 45 bee hives at one time and sells her honey commercially.

Her informal talk included topics like splitting hives, treating for disease and grafting queens.

The association’s intended membership base includes beginner hobbyists, as well as those who have kept bees for decades. Members also don’t have to be from Fayette County to participate.

One of the advantages of a formal group includes bulk ordering of bees and supplies, which can be pricey, especially with shipping.

“That’s the whole joy of having a bee club,” says Moretto.

Then there’s the possibility of lobbying for bee-related resources and support at the state level.

“A lot of voices stand better than one,” Extension Agent Brian Sparks reminded the group.

Then there’s the simple need for community.

“My whole reason for being here is to find out who’s raising bees in the area, so I have the contacts to ask for help,” said Wayne Persinger of Fayetteville, summarizing the motivations of many in attendance.

“There’s always something out there to help you be a better beekeeper, whether you have one hive or 40,” says Sparks.

He estimates that there are 200 bee robbers in Fayette County today.

Brenemen says he has seen beekeeping bloom as a hobby in recent times, especially among women. He attributes it in part to a growing movement towards naturally-grown products.

“There’s nothing more natural than bees,” says Brenemen, who this year transitioned his farm to organic growing methods. “We all need to start living cleaner.”

He says he would like to see the group organize a six-week course for new beekeepers, as well as educational visits to area schools.

Some of the counties surrounding Fayette already have their own clubs.

Joe Strickland, a leader of the Nicholas County club who attended Monday’s meeting, says some members of his club harvest between 400 and 800 pounds of honey per year.

He volunteered to work with the Fayette County group to set up bylaws if needed.

“It’s a fascinating hobby,” he said, encouraging those gathered to keep up their organizational efforts.

“I always learn something at these meetings,” he says. “You can never learn enough about beekeeping.”

The next meeting of the association will be Aug. 27, with the location to be determined. They plan to discuss more about formal organization, as well as other topics on the minds of beekeepers as autumn rolls around.

For more information, call John Breneman Jr., at 304-894-6064, or Brian Sparks at 304-574-4253.

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