At Work / Workers Around The Region

AT WORK

September 14, 2005|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Dave Simmons

Beekeeper, Churchville

Age: 57

Years in business: 17

Salary: $5,000 last year; this year closer to $1,500

Beekeepers in Maryland: There are 1,283 registered beekeepers with slightly more than 9,000 colonies, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Anyone with a bee colony in Maryland is required to register with the state.

How he got started: After he bought his 20-acre property in Churchville in 1988. He had fruit trees on the property that needed pollination and he always had been interested in bees. He took a short course through a local beekeeping association and started with two colonies. It caught on. At one time, Simmons had as many as 40 colonies. He now has 12, with about 50,000 to 60,000 bees in each colony. He typically gets 50 to 100 pounds of honey per colony.

How he markets his product: Simmons uses the name Good as Gold Honey Bee Co. to sell wildflower honey, lip balm, beeswax, candles and skin creams. He sells the products at the Havre de Grace Farmers' Market on Saturdays as well as at local festivals and stores. He also rents out his colonies to farmers to pollinate crops, usually charging about $50 per colony.

Typical season: Between February and early May, Simmons must double his bee population within each colony, which dwindles during the winter. In very early spring, the bees are used to pollinate orchards and strawberries. They then go into honey production in May and June. The honey is harvested once a year, in July. The hives are then moved to local farms to pollinate fields of squash, cucumber, melon and cantaloupe. Later, they will be moved to pollinate pumpkins. Simmons estimates that he spends one full day a week preparing the bee products and only about 20 days a year handling the bees.

The sting: Simmons said that swelling is a normal reaction to a sting and does not mean that an allergy exists.

Favorite bee statistic: To produce one pound of honey, the bees travel a combined distance to collect the nectar of about 55,000 miles.

Life in a beehive: About 95 percent of the bees in the hive are female and do all the work. In a typical hive of 60,000 bees, there is one queen bee (the only fertile female), a few hundred male, drone bees and the rest are infertile female workers.

The good: "Beekeeping makes you more connected to nature," he said. And Simmons just enjoys working with the bees. "Their biology is very different than the biology of mammals and very interesting. I enjoy the scientific aspects of it. I also enjoy working with the farmers and producing a food product."

The bad: Harmful parasitic mite infestations can destroy hives and combating them is extremely difficult. "It can become discouraging," says Simmons.

Day job: Thirty-five hours a week, Simmons is an environmental engineer at Clean Earth of Maryland in Hagerstown

Extracurriculars: Simmons is the past president of the Susquehanna Beekeepers Association and the Maryland State Beekeepers Association. He teaches beekeeping courses at local clubs, associations and schools.- Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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