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Clarkesville apiary buzzes with visitors

POSTED: June 4, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Carl Webb holds up a tray of honeycomb during an open house Friday at his Clarkesville apiary.

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CLARKESVILLE — Carl Webb got into beekeeping as a hobby. By the end of the year, he and his wife, Virginia, will have harvested 20,000 pounds of honey.

The Webbs held an open house Friday at their honey house and apiary. It was an opportunity to remind visitors of this often forgotten segment of agriculture.

"In the early 1960s, I started as a hobby," said Carl Webb, who got further into the business after retiring from the U.S. Forest Service."I thought, ‘Why not get a few more bees?’ and it kept increasing and
increasing until finally I had a business."

The Webbs have 50 bee colonies at their home, where they primarily focus on raising queen bees. In the mountains, there are 300 more colonies that produce the golden honey for which they have won numerous awards.

"It’s sometimes more than a full-time job," said Webb, who only brings in occasional labor to help with the bottling of honey.

Webb wholesales some of his honey to The Dillard House, which features the product in their mail-order catalog.

In the past couple of years, the drought has taken a toll on the honey production.

"The weather does effect us and if it’s too dry in summer, we don’t make as much honey as we do in a normal year," he said. "The year before last, we almost made no honey. We had to feed the bees. Normally, they eat their own honey. That was an emergency year."

About half of their production is sourwood honey, which is produced from the flowers of the sourwood trees that grow in the mountains.

"It’s considered by many to be the best honey in the United States," he said.

While the honey is produced primarily in the spring and summer, Webb said production is a year-round job. He keeps busy repairing machinery in the winter and bottling honey in the late season.

"We stay busy and I enjoy every bit of it," said Webb. "If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it. I think I have more fun than people who are retired and do their leisure activities."

He has avoided disease problems, particularly the colony collapse syndrome that has been a problem among beekeepers in recent years.

"We’ve been using bees that were imported by the USDA from Siberia and they tend to be resistant to the diseases," he said.

The Webbs sell their products in an unusual way. An unattended stand is located in their front yard with various jars of honey. The product is sold on the honor system as customers drop their cash or a check into a slot. Thus far, not a single jar has left the stand unpaid, the Webbs said.


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