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Tuesday September 02, 2014
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John Piette and Joanne Kimata

 

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The couple thought their queen might be "Africanized"-carrying genes from aggressive African bees. But then they found that a family of mice had made a home underneath the hive. Though the mice had fled, the nest seemed to be the culprit-and removing it solved the problem. "The next time we came back we were very wary of the hive, and we were relieved to find that they were back to their usual selves, which is very gentle," says Kimata.

Married seventeen years, Piette and Kimata have been hobby beekeepers for the past five. With a troop of about a dozen volunteers and occasional help from son Jordan, fourteen, and daughter Jessie, twelve, they care for nineteen hives housing about 50,000 bees.

Since they both have day jobs, they have to squeeze in time for their Dancing Crane Honey Farm on weekends. John, forty-five, who sports boyish good looks and a calm manner, is a U-M professor

of internal medicine. Kimata, a young-looking fifty, works for the U-M Health System on special projects. They took up beekeeping when John decided he needed a hobby and remembered how, growing up in rural Wisconsin, he'd enjoyed helping his uncle tend beehives. When Kimata took an interest, they dove in together. "It gets us out to the country where it's beautiful," says John. "Bees are buzzing, cows roaming; we wouldn't do that in our day-to-day life. You're in this different world. . . . You get to wear this really dopey suit with smoke everywhere. How often do people get to do that?"

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