BROCKWAY — Ron Huey of Brockway is certainly a “busy bee” this time of year, tending to his hives and training others to maintain their own.
Huey is the owner of “Huey’s Beekeeping,” a swarm removal, hives and honey company he runs out of his home in Brockway. He also aims to spread awareness about how to keep honeybees alive and thriving.
Huey has been beekeeping for about 60 years, starting when he was just nine years old. He builds bee boxes and sends them all over the United States, shipping around 30 a month in the summertime.
“Honeybees are very interesting, and it’s a lot of fun to do,” he said of his hobby.
A normal hive will have anywhere from 75,000-100,000 bees in it, Huey said. Each bee box can make 90-100 pounds of honey in just one week. He said he has sold as much as 800 pounds of honey in a four-month period.
Spring and summer are the busiest time for bees and their beekeepers. In the summer, bees only live for about 30 days because they are so active, Huey said.
Huey has made the backyard of his home a honeybee’s paradise. He has seven bee boxes right now, where the bees can bring pollen from outside and make honey. He lights “cedar chips” to make a cool smoke, which kicks the bees’ honey-making process into gear. He said the bees “think their house is on fire, and they get busy eating as much honey as they can.”
The bee visits forms of pollination, sucking out the nectar and storing it in their “honey stomach,” which can hold up to 70 milligrams of nectar, then transfer it back to the hive, where the nectar is turned into honey. The queen bee lays up to 2,000 eggs each day.
Huey also has a bird feeder full of honey water hanging from his clothesline, so bees can further supply themselves. He has a “wax melter,” which allows him to sell wax blocks as well.
Even though he has been stung as many as 89 times in one setting, Huey says his love for honeybees is something he wants to pass on to others, so their survival can continue. He also tends to more than 100 hives that belong to other people, and helps train beginning beekeepers.
When they see a swarm of honeybees, Huey urges people not to spray and kill them, but to call him. He takes swarms from houses and trees, capturing them and taking them where they can be useful.
People also tend to kill main food sources for bees, such as dandelions in the spring, and farmers kill a lot of vegetation that the bees need to survive, Huey said.
It is also useful for people to educate themselves on the difference between a honeybee and a yellow jacket, Huey said. Honeybees have a fuzzy coating, which is how they transport pollen, whereas yellow jackets are brighter in color and have smooth coats.
When people “swat” or kill a honeybee, they may have it mistaken for a yellow jacket, which are much more likely to sting and aren’t as essential to the environment. Nine times out of 10, a honeybee is the calmer-natured bee, and won’t be the one to sting unless something upsets them, Huey said. For example, bees tend to sting on rainy and cloudy days, since sunny and hot days are best for their honey-making process.
According to a quote by Albert Einstein, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
The endangerment of honeybees is a big problem, and it’s important for people to be aware, Huey said. He lost 18 of his hives last year.
“Honey is at its highest level right now, and we actually sell more honey than there are bees to make it,” he said. “I don’t know the best way to protect them, but we have to do something, and educate people on the importance of honeybees.”
For more information, call Ron Huey at 814-541-1133.