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The bees are back in town: Here’s what honey experts have to say this spring
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Fascinated by bees, Ron Campbell has more than 20 hives he tends at his Lula home. - Photo by Scott Rogers, DCN Regional Staff

If you’re beginning to see honey bees in your yard, you’re not alone. As the weather begins to get warmer, honey bees become more active and beekeepers start reaping the benefits.

“They’re amazing little creatures,” said Ron Campbell, who runs his honey operation out of his backyard in Lula.

The 72-year-old has been at it since he was 24, but took a long break once he got a job that required him to travel. He couldn’t keep up with the bees, but started again almost 10 years ago when he settled down.

He now keeps up with 23 hives at his home, and even with all the work needed to keep thousands of bees buzzing, he usually gives most of their honey away to friends and family.

After retiring in March, though, he’s looking forward to selling it at the Hall County Farmers Market and starting to make a little money off his hard work — and the hard work of his bees.

“If you study a bee and watch them grow, you’ll know there’s a higher power,” Campbell said.

He enjoys watching bees and learning about them almost as much as he enjoys eating their honey. Campbell said his family eats at least three gallons of honey each year. His favorite is sourwood.

Even though the cold temperatures are lingering, bees will soon be heading full-force into North Georgia and he’ll have to begin tending to the hives even more.

Bobby Chaisson, president of Tri-County Beekeepers, said April through mid-June is when bees in the area do most of their work.

“In that little, short period of time, the bee has to make all the honey it can make to last it throughout the year,” Chaisson said.

There aren’t many things left to pollinate after that short period is over, which is why he encourages people to plant things that bloom during the summer, so bees can extend that time and produce honey for longer.

“If we can plant stuff that will bloom and is a nectar source during the summer, that will definitely assist the bees,” Chaisson said.

He said the main floral sources in North Georgia are poplar trees, wild blackberries and clover.

Not everything this time of year is sweet, though. Pollen is a problem for many peoples allergies. Legend has it, eating local honey can help alleviate the severity of some of those allergies. But it’s not just legend for Chaisson and Campbell — it’s something they swear by.

“You can take a teaspoon of honey, a teaspoon of Bragg (apple cider) vinegar and 8 ounces of water and drink that in the morning and start that in January and your allergies will be half of what they are,” Campbell said.

For Chaisson, all it takes is a tablespoon of honey every day.

“What I equate it to is taking an antibiotic,” Campbell said. “The doctor gives you 10 days of antibiotics so it builds up in your system. It’s the same way with local honey. You get small doses of the pollen you’re allergic to until your body builds up an immunity to that pollen.”

He said it’s best to stick with honey within a 20-mile radius of where you live. For him, that’s in his front yard off of Ga. 51 in Lula, where he has a roadside stand for the honey he harvests.

During this time of year, there’s one bit of advice Chaisson has for people: Don’t mess with the bees. If you see a “swarm” of bees — a large group of bees gathered in the same spot, whether it’s hanging from a branch, on a fence post or even on your home — it’s best to reach out to a beekeeper in the area who will be happy to help. The swarm is waiting until it can find a new location to make a hive.

“Don’t freak out about it,” Chaisson said. “We’ve got plenty of beekeepers that will come out and collect the swarm … Leave them alone, let them hang in the tree and then call a local beekeeper and we can relocate them and get them in a hive.”