Beekeeper discusses honeybees, how to manage them

Margaret Peppiatt
Staff Writer

A local beekeeper talked about honeybees and how to maintain them in the Gentile Gallery April 11.

Justin Sofio, ’10, grew up in Steubenville and began beekeeping while living in Ireland for six years. He said he became interested in the occupation during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 2011 when he encountered a beekeeper selling honey on the street.

Sofio said a starting package contains about 12,000 to 15,000 bees. Since the queen bee lays 2,000 eggs per day, a hive can grow to include 80,000 bees in the height of summer.

The worker bees are all female and make up to 99% of the hive population, Sofio said. They “do all the work,” such as gathering pollen and feeding the hive.

Sofio said the queen bee mates once with a male drone bee, which then dies. The queen lives for about two to three years and releases pheromones to communicate with her court, a group of worker bees that attends to her needs.

The bees use a bucket chain system to deposit nectar into the hive, Sofio said. They place the nectar into wax cells shaped like hexagons, which allows the most storage in the least amount of space.

Sofio said honeybees use water to control the temperature of the hive in the heat. The bees spread water throughout the wax and vent it with their wings, causing the water to evaporate and cool down the hive.

A “swarm of bees” is a group of bees that have left their hive because it grew too big, Sofio said, noting that swarms are mostly docile. Swarms take a queen bee with them in search of a new hive.

To extract honey, Sofio said he places hive frames into an extractor that spins rapidly to remove the honey. After dripping to the bottom of the extractor, the honey must be filtered to remove pieces of wax and bees.

Sofio said students interested in beekeeping can look into the local beekeeper’s association in their county. He pointed out that beekeeping only requires a small space such as a roof or patio near an adequate food source for the bees.

Junior McKayla Eichert said, “The bee talk was super interesting. I never realized how many different aspects there were to beekeeping.”

The talk was sponsored by the Catholic Agrarian Club.

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