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Get a taste of beekeeping at open house
Couple aims to maintain population
Carl Webb prepares to take the honey off the from one of the bee hives at his Clarkesville honey company. - photo by Tom Reed

Bee open house

When: 1-4 p.m. Friday

Where: The home of Carl and Virginia Webb, 349 Gastley Road, Clarkesville

How much: Free

Contact: 706-754-7062

There are millions of them, all busy working around us every day.

They help provide food for us to eat and produce some food of their own in the process.

And if you want to learn more about them, stop by the home of Carl and Virginia Webb on Friday, where they will be leading tours, hosting a honey tasting and teaching visitors about the wonderful world of bees.

"We’re seeing more emphasis put on agriculture up here, which is really good. I think farming, now, is moving up in how the community sees it," said Virginia Webb, who raises bees and produces honey at their Clarkesville home. "Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in (Habersham) County and (Hall) County, and it’s important that we maintain healthy farms and farms that are viable and sustainable."

Part of that responsibility involves maintaining a viable bee population, which has been decimated in many parts of the country because of colony collapse disorder. The sickness ranges from microscopic mites to a disease for bees that’s similar to dysentery, Webb said, and can cause the bees to become disoriented, lose their hive and die.

"It has been limited in Georgia, but that doesn’t mean we’re not without problems," Webb said, adding that one beekeeper in Hall County has lost a colony because of the problem.

Ray Noblet, head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia, agreed that the problem hasn’t been as widespread in Georgia as in other places.

"Georgia beekeepers have had some issues, but not the horror stories we’ve heard from other places," he said, adding that colony collapse disorder encompasses a number of bee issues.

"We know that there’s a number of things that affect the bee population. There’s varroa mites, climactic conditions, environmental conditions. There’s always been people who feel contaminants in the environment affect bees; we’ve never been able to
quantify that.

"We know bees are more difficult to manage than they used to be, but we haven’t seen dramatic die outs like in some areas."

One of the ways the Webbs are combating colony collapse disorder is by breeding Russian queens, which seem to be more resistant to the problems. The Webbs are one of 18 certified Russian bee breeders in the country, she said.

"From the very first release in 2000, we were really surprised how they can handle mites and other tests within the hive," she said. "And that’s one of the benefits of going with an IPM, or integrated pest-management system."

Along with visiting the Russian bees, Webb said the day’s events also will include information on cooking with honey, different ways to use it and information about the bee hives.

This is the second year for the Webbs’ open house, and last year the event drew about 120 to 150 visitors, Webb said.

This year, between school groups, home-schooled kids and others interested in bees, she expects about 200 to their farm.