Monday, October 3, 2022

This public service association is gearing up for its busiest time of the year

Colonial Beekeeper Association president, Andy Westrich poses in front of bees at St. George Brewing Company. (HNNDaily staff photo/ Troy Jefferson).
Colonial Beekeeper Association president, Andy Westrich poses in front of bees at St. George Brewing Company. (Troy Jefferson/HNNDaily).

HAMPTON — Things are “bee-sy” for the Colonial Beekeeper Association these days.

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

On April 19, Judd Nierle and Pete Ostrowski of the Colonial Beekeepers Association transferred bees from the historic 1884 Warwick Courthouse in Denbigh to Colony Road, according to a news release from the City of Newport News.

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 Beekeeper 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.

“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.”

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.

Two local beekeepers helped remove bees from a historical site in Newport News. (HNNDaily photo/ courtesy of the city of Newport News).
Two local beekeepers helped remove bees from a historical site in Newport News. (HNNDaily photo/ courtesy of the City of Newport News).

Westrich also works with the St. George Brewing Company 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 Beekeeper 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 in Yorktown.

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