Honey of a hobby

Local beekeeper John Rogers prepares to transfer a swarm of bees to one of the hives at his home Saturday. Rogers is president of the Sauk-Columbia County Honey Producers Association.

Beekeeping is a honey of a hobby.

Local members of the Sauk-Columbia County Honey Producers Association met at organization president John Rogers’ home in Baraboo on Saturday for a potluck.

The local beekeeper and owner of a small business — Rogers Pure Honey — started with his first colony about five years ago. Now he has about 300 bee colonies throughout the area.

“I was trying to make money somewhere new, start a new business,” Rogers said of the venture.

The local bee aficionados in the group range from hobbyists with just one hive to those who make their living as full-time beekeepers.

“This year is going to be good,” said Rogers, who sells honey out of a self-service box attached to his home on Elizabeth Street. “There was a little bit of loss through the winter. Everybody knows that.”

At Saturday’s meeting, Rogers offered some hands-on beekeeping demonstrations for new and experienced members. One of the best ways to learn the art is through other people, he said.

Association member Jeff Davies, a truck driver and hobby beekeeper, is hoping the Sauk City Village Board will pass an ordinance that would allow beekeeping in his own back yard.

Davies, who has seven hives, said he got into the hobby as a way to help the environment.

“It’s a great hobby. There are more and more people getting into it,” Davies said. “You hear stories that we’re losing the honey bee and stuff like that, and I thought this would be a great way to give back to nature.”

He said he has learned many things about the often-misunderstood insects since he started.

“They’re pretty gentle unless you’re actually attacking the hive,” he said.

Davies said he likes to pull a lawn chair up to one of his hives and just sit and watch the striped marvels fly back in. He can tell a lot about where the bees have been by the color of the pollen they’re carrying in the baskets on their legs — a view that is, quite literally, the bees’ knees.

Davies and the other beekeepers said they are hoping to get new people involved in the hobby.

“It’s fun to work with a lot of new people,” he said. “ … All of us are really intent on wanting to help and getting new beekeepers started.”

He and his wife, Rose Davies, recently discovered they are allergic to honey bee stings. They have been working with their doctors and to get allergy shots so they can continue enjoying their hobby.

“It’s that important to us that even though we’re allergic to honey bees, we want to keep bees,” Jeff Davies said.

Pam Kohlmeyer said she has been beekeeping for about 25 years. She has decreased the number of hives she keeps in preparation for her retirement and because she, too, was recently diagnosed with a honey bee allergy.

“I just loved it, and I’ve done it all these years,” she said, adding that honey has been her main Christmas gift to friends and family members for a long time.

A friend got her into beekeeping, and she has tried to pass it on to others, including her own grandkids.

“I like the pollination aspect of it,” she said.

Linda Reichert of Loganville was one of a few new beekeepers at Saturday’s potluck.

“About a year ago, I tried chickens for the first time, and they went over really good,” Reichert said, after peering into a hive for a glimpse of the queen. “And then bees, obviously, I like honey. And bees are so important for all the crops and things. And they’re having issues, so I thought this sounded like something I could maybe do to help out the environment as well. We wouldn’t have food if it weren’t for bees.”

Get involved

• For more information on beekeeping or the association, call John Rogers at (608) 963-8389.

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