Hott Apiary to host honeybee festival

The Valley Banner

MCGAHEYSVILLE — It’s time, Mike Hott thinks, to celebrate the honeybee.

Hott, owner of Hott Apiary, is holding his first Honey Bee Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 13. The free public event will be held at Shenandoah Valley Farm, 882 Bloomer Springs Road, McGaheysville.

The lead worker at James Madison University’s Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, the longtime beekeeper said he’s wanted to hold a festival celebrating the pollinator for years and plans to make it an annual event.

“It’s just one of those things where I feel like everybody needs a chance to learn about bees,” said Hott, “and without some kind of event, people are not going to pursue the whole bee thing. That’s one of the perks of a festival — you have bees, and there’s an educational purpose behind it.”

The family event will offer education and fun.

For children, there will be a Kid Zone, a honeybee costume contest and a Busy Bee March, led by members of the Augusta County 4-H.

Four workshops are scheduled throughout the day. “Beekeeping: Is it for me?” starts things off at 10:30 a.m., followed by “The Queen” at 11:30 a.m., “A Healthy Hive” at 12:30 p.m., and “How to transfer your nuc to your hive” at 1:30 p.m.

“Nuc” is the beekeeping term for nuclear colony, which are small colonies created from larger ones.

Community members that have purchase nucs in advance will receive them at 2 p.m.

The classes, Hott said, are designed to help novice beekeepers recognize problems in a hive so they can prevent problems from getting out of control.

The event also offers a nature walk around the farm grounds, live music, food from a variety of vendors, and locally made arts and crafts for sale.

Despite the festival’s name, Hott said prospective attendees shouldn’t be concerned about encountering its namesake.

“The hives are 150 to 200 yards away from the festival,” he said. “People don’t have to worry about bees flying around in their face.”

Pollinators Important
If you eat today, you should thank a pollinator.

“There are estimates that one in every three bites at your dinner table is attributed to honeybees and pollinators,” said Keith Tignor, who works for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as the state apiarist.

But there’s a problem with the honey bee and other pollinators. They’re disappearing.

Tignor said about 33 percent of the state’s managed honeybees die each winter due to weather, the stress of the season, and new diseases. Other pollinator numbers also are on the decline: On Tuesday, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first bee placed on the endangered species list.

VDACS officials are working on a pollinator protection plan in the hopes of bolstering their numbers and minimizing the risk of pesticides on the insects. They’re also partnering with the Virginia Cooperative Extension and other agriculture groups to promote beekeeping.

“We’re seeing some alarming losses that we would like to bring down and make it more sustainable for beekeepers to keep their hives,” said Tignor.

Hott, a McGaheysville resident, said he has 10 bee yards with 60 to 80 hives each within 20 miles of Harrisonburg. Many of his hives help pollinate fruit farms in the Dayton and Hinton areas, helping fruits reach maximum potential.

While some colonies are positioned merely to help with pollination, others are honey producers. Hott sells raw honey and bee pollen.

The business will roll out a new line of products made from the apiary’s raw honey and beeswax at the festival. Branded Hott Apiary Natural Remedy, the all-natural products include healing lotions, facial-care products, bug repellent, and muscle- pain relief balms.

Hott Apiary is opening a new store, called From the Hive, at the farm to sell its entire product line.

When the day ends, Hott said, he hopes more people are ready to take up beekeeping.

“I’d love to see every single person in the world,” he said, “have one beehive.”

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