Meet a Beekeeper

Faye Langille- You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

You do what you gotta do. This realization came to Faye Langille in 1992.

The year previously, faced with a looming shortage of beehives for blueberries brought about by closure of the border to US packages, combined with the loss of local hives when a beekeeper friend movedWest, and, bingo: you gotta become a beekeeper yourself.

She took a day and a half long beekeeping course from Norm Donovan at the NSAC that winter, bought three nucs from Don Amirault the following spring, hived them in used gear bought from her westward-headed beekeeper friend, Knut Haensel , and she was in business.

Learning skills and confidence with the three nucs of 1992, Faye jumped right in by buying twenty Australian packages in 1993. She helped Phil Janz install his packages that spring so she could learn how to install her own. Her packaged Aussie bees started life in Nova Scotia on new comb in new gear, eked out by two drawn combs per hive. And those were Faye's last bee purchases. This year (2006) she has 107 hives wrapped for winter. She sold 30 nucs in the spring of 2006 and had sold 55 in the spring of 2005.

Faye and her husband Logan and some of their adult children run Wentworth Farms, a mixed commodity operation that produces blueberries, bees (honey), beef and roundwood from the woodlot. Faye's beekeeping supports the blueberry operation. Her goal is to have two hives per acre of berries. Her bees are set up in three permanent electric-fenced yards on the farm, where they are adjacent to pastures (for clover) and blueberries (for pollination). One of her outyards is three miles from the main farm, so every second year she has to move the fifty hives from that yard to a bear-prone berry field on the main farm. Part of the learning curve, she recalls, involved moving bees to the bear-prone field from a closer yard instead. They used a wagon, and then returned the wagon to the original site. Just as the textbook says, "You've got to move bees three miles or more" -- the next day the wagon was invisible, but its outline was there, a living, quivering, furry bee wagon. Faye lured the orphans into a hive with a caged queen and never tried short moves again.

Not having to do extensive moving or traveling to keep her bees has been a real bonus for Faye. She says her hives were varroa mite free a couple of years longer than other hives that were moved for pollination. The Pettis test she performed this summer indicated that Apistan was still 80% effective for her, but she elected to use coumaphos (Checkmite) anyway. Faye regularly monitor's about 10% of her hives for varroa with sticky boards, and on the basis of that monitoring she did not treat in the spring of 2006.

Faye retired from teaching in 2006, and she recalls how hectic May and the spring build-up period used to be. Having her son Andrew as an assistant since he was fourteen and not having to move hives has helped her get through those busy times. She likes to get into her hives every seven to ten days and averages two days a week at beekeeping. Faye has developed methods that work for her. For instance, one of her August hive manipulations involves putting brood up above a honey barrier in the top super of a hive. The queen is kept below the honey barrier, and as the brood emerges, the bees fill the vacant cells with honey. Faye and son Andrew remove honey in mid-September and they do it early in the morning. Andrew shakes bees comb-by-comb onto the brood nest. Faye brushes off any that remain and they stow the beeless honey supers in the truck. Faye figures they have about an hour or two each morning before the bees get wise to what's going on. In that time they collect about forty supers, which, ideally, will be extracted that day.

Faye's hot room and extracting room are in the back of the farm's workshop. The loft area above the rooms is used to store honey supers. In December, at the time of this interview, the workshop was cluttered with equipment, but in September Logan keeps it clear so Faye can make a beeline to her hot room. It's a no frills operation. It's all about blueberries, remember. Honey is nice, but bees are better.

Logan and Faye started farming full time in 1980 on a farm composed of four original farmstead lots that included the Peter Tuttle land grant of 1790 (Faye's maiden name is Tuttle). Under their hands the farm has grown to include thirteen original farmstead lots, most of them contiguous. All the farm work is done by Logan, Faye and their adult children . Their multi-commodity approach means they have to turn their hands to various tasks, but a bonus has been financial stability. Beekeeping has been and continues to be a minor part of the farm, but a major contributor to the farm's success.