Thursday, May 19, 2022

Area beekeeping group gearing up for its busiest time of the year

Bees are seen in a hive.
(File/Adobe)

Things are “bee-sy” for the Colonial Beekeepers Association these days.

April, May and June are the peak months for bee removal for the association, according to its president Andy Westrich.

Last month, Judd Nierle and Pete Ostrowski of the beekeepers association transferred the insects from the historic 1884 Warwick Courthouse in Newport News to Colony Road.

Nierle and Ostrowski first collected the insects in a low-pressure vacuum cleaner, then scraped away the honeycomb before transferring the insects to bee boxes. In total, the job took about six hours.

Westrich, who has been beekeeping for 12 years and president of the association for two, said this is typical for this time of the year.

The Colonial Beekeepers Association is an all-volunteer group of beekeepers from the Peninsula and Middle Peninsula areas of Virginia. There are 180 active total members.

Similar clubs exist throughout the state and country.

Last month. members of the Colonial Beekeepers Association helped remove the insects from the historic Warwick County Courthouse in Newport News. (WYDaily photo/ courtesy of the City of Newport News).
Last month. members of the Colonial Beekeepers Association helped remove the insects from the historic Warwick County Courthouse in Newport News. (WYDaily photo/ courtesy of the City of Newport News).

“We are a nonprofit organization. Our organization is dedicated to fostering beekeeping in the community,” Westrich said. “We do a lot of outreach and education. We hold free classes for beginning to advanced beekeeping. You don’t have to be a member to come to the training courses.”

Westrich estimates the association gets about 50 calls a year and averages about four calls a week during April, May and June.

Westrich, who keeps bees in his backyard, said he got into beekeeping after retiring from the Navy.

“One of my office mates was a beekeeper and he got me into it. It started like it always does — it’s something fun to do,” Westrich said. “I did it for the honey.”

Colonial Beekeeper Association President Andy Westrich with the bees at the St. George Brewing Co. in Hampton. (Troy Jefferson/WYDaily).
Colonial Beekeepers Association President Andy Westrich with the bees at the St. George Brewing Co. in Hampton. (Troy Jefferson/WYDaily).

Despite the danger of getting stung, Westrich emphasized that beekeeping is more fun than dangerous.

“There are times when things happen and you can get stung,” Westrich said. “But I know people who are allergic to bees and they’re beekeepers. You take precautions.”

Beekeepers wear gloves, a jacket and a veil when transporting bees.

Westrich also works with the St. George Brewing Co. as a brewmaster.

The brewery has its own hives and uses the honey in some of its beers, including the honey mead lager.

The Colonial Beekeepers Association meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  on the third Tuesday of each month at the Fellowship Hall of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 300 Ella Taylor Road, in Yorktown.

Bryan DeVasherhttp://wydaily.com
Bryan DeVasher is the managing editor-digital of WYDaily. A resident of Hampton Roads for more than two decades, he has worked for news organizations in Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. He most recently was a member of the public relations staff for Virginia State Police.

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