Oct 2016 Program

Tue., Oct. 4 at 1:30 PM

Topic:  Bees in the Garden

Speaker:  Diane Benton

The October 4th meeting also features The Biggest Little Rose Show in the Mother Lode.  Ribbons and cash prizes!


“Bees in Your Garden”

Diane Benton and Jerry Van Heeringen
Diane Benton and Jerry Van Heeringen

Diane Benton and Jerry Van Heeringen are hobby beekeepers in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. They are members of the Gold Country Rose Society in Auburn and the ARS.  One of their interests is attending the World Federation of Rose Society Conferences around the world every three years.  In fact, after last years meeting in Lyon, France, they were able to travel to Paris and were invited by a local beekeeper to view his hives on top of the Paris Opera House.

3576599436_2cc7933502They have been keeping bees since 2008 and currently have 12 beehives on their property in Grass Valley. Both are members of the Nevada County Beekeeping Association where Jerry is this year’s President. Join Diane and Jerry for a fun & lively discussion, show and tell, and slide show about beekeeping.  Learn all about the “bee dance” and why you should never keep your beehives in a field with black cows!


“Reflections on the State of Bee-ing” from the Auburn Journal interview with beekeeper Diane Benton, article follows:

“It was allergies that got beekeeper Diane Benton interested in hives.
“She lived on the coast for many years and never had any allergy problems,” her husband, Jerry Van Heeringen said. “She moved up here and the allergies (appeared). A friend suggested trying some of the local honey.”
That sparked the idea of tending their own bees. So the couple joined the Nevada County Beekeeping Society and signed up for a beginning beekeeping class.
Along with classroom discussions, there was hands-on interaction with the bees. It captured their imagination immediately.
“Just about every aspect was fascinating,” Van Heeringen said. “(Bees) have a two-mile range – a four-mile circle they’ll fly in to forage. They are very essential to the food supply. They are so adapted to survival. When the queen bee is mating after she hatches, she mates with a number of drones and that helps the genetic (makeup) of the hive.
“The worker bees forage and when they find something, they do a little dance outside the hive that has to do with compass direction and relationship with the sun. It directs the other bees to exactly that particular location.”
After studying and mulling the idea, Van Heeringen and Benton brought their first hive to their farm near Grass Valley several years ago. Unfortunately, that colony died over the winter.
“We got two more and managed with those for a couple of years,” Van Heeringen said. “As time went by, we built up our colonies until we had 28.”
Then last year’s combination of a very dry summer and cold winter decimated their bee population. Only one-fourth of the colonies made it through.
“A lot of beekeepers lost a lot of bees last year,” he said.
Even with just seven colonies left, opportunity knocked. A friend short on colonies for almond pollination in the Central Valley asked to bring along their bees, too.
“When they came back from pollinating the almonds, the colonies were very strong. With all the foraging, they really thrived down there,” Van Heeringen said. “It is a benefit for the bees and the growers.”
So far, beekeeping has been just a hobby, but the almond pollination experience got the couple considering someday turning it into a business.
This summer Van Heeringen and Benton focused on building up the colonies.
“We didn’t take any honey from them,” he said. “We really just wanted to increase the bees. We ended up with 14 colonies and they all seem very strong right now.”
Caring for the hives means, as much as possible, just letting them be.
“I hate to disturb them too much,” he said. “I’ll go out to the bee yard and check the weight of the hives. You want them to weigh 130 pounds going into fall. We call it the two-finger check. We take two fingers and lift up the side of the colony. If you can just barely lift it, it is about 65 pounds, which is about right for half of the colony.”
The stings hold no terror for him anymore.
“At first it is a scary thought. But if you are a beekeeper, you are going to be stung by bees,” he said. “I like to work with the hives without gloves. In warm weather, you can work bare-handed. It makes a better beekeeper out of me because you need to be gentle. In cold weather, the bees are more aggressive. … I wear a veil and suit then.”
As a hobby, it is not as easy as it seems, cautions Jeremiah Farrell, president of the Nevada County Beekeepers Association.
“Everyone thinks you can take bees, put them in a box and leave them there, then come back in September and harvest the honey,” he said. “Thirty years ago you could do that …. Now with the introduction of new diseases and more pesticide problems, it is harder and harder to maintain bees in a healthy state.”
For example, the varroa mite is a common pest problem for the hives. This is something Van Heeringen and Benton have had to deal with and are constantly vigilant to prevent. An infestation weakens the colony and makes it less able to withstand weather extremes.…”


In addition the October meeting will feature “The Biggest Little Rose Show in the Mother Lode.”

For information and schedule on The Biggest Little Rose Show click here.