John Piette and Joanne Kimata
Once the queen has been relocated to the queenless hive, the day's work is done. When it is time to collect the honey, Kimata and Piette take the frames to a local man who removes the honey from the combs with a machine that operates by centrifugal force. Last year they produced about 900 pounds, selling it mostly by word of mouth. Their sales brought in several hundred dollars, which they donated to organizations doing humanitarian work in Vietnam. This year they are thinking of donating to a local charity, yet to be determined.
So far they haven't been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious disappearance of worker bee populations nationally over the last few years. Piette says the unexplained phenomenon could have several causes, including a mite that is infesting the bees, but no one has concrete answers. "It's kind of shocking to me that they haven't figured it out yet," he says.
Piette and Kimata spend every spring weekend tending the bees, but things slow down in the summer as the bees tend themselves. In the fall, maintenance chores add a few more hours on the weekends. The volunteers, mostly environmentalist couples and midlife women who are into gardening, help tend the hives and harvest the honey.
"The bees are really smart," Piette says, "very sensual and aesthetic. The queen knows this time of year to start laying fewer eggs because winter is coming; there are more mouths to feed. Then in the deepest darkest winter she knows it's time to start laying more eggs to get ready for the spring, when everything is in bloom."