Meet the beekeeper: Jody Aylard

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by Susan Chandler

In 2016 the Swarm Committee got off to an early start with the first call on March 30. This year the cooler and wetter Spring has meant a later start to the swarm season – with the first call coming in on April 21st.

Jody Aylard has coordinated the swarm hotline for two years and says she particularly enjoys working with other beekeepers (there are 24 members on the swarm committee), interacting with members of the public, and talking to happy people once an issue is resolved. Jody notes that most of the people who call seem to understand the plight of the honeybee and the need to help them. She says most callers are appreciative of the knowledge, assistance and service that is provided by the bee club.

Q: How did you become interested in beekeeping? 

My interest in bees is linked to my lifelong connection to agriculture. I grew up on a dairy farm and occasionally people kept hives in our orchard. I have a childhood memory of seeing people using smokers and working with the bees. I also learned about beekeeping and honey judging through 4H.

My interest was rekindled when I worked at Agriculture Canada. The issue of Colony Collapse Disorder was in the headlines and I learned about the scientific research on bees being done by the department.

Q: How did you Get Started as a Beekeeper?

Before I ever got bees I joined the CRBA. I took an online extension course through Penn State and followed that with the beginners beekeeping course offered by Bob Liptrot. I highly recommend taking courses before you get hives so that you at least have a sense of what to do. I have since taken the intermediate beekeeping course as well.

After taking the course I spent a whole lot of money at a store that will remain nameless, and learned the hard way about the pros and cons of different kinds of equipment – plastic versus wood frames for example.

In the Spring of 2014 I got my first bees. I picked up four nucs (two for me and two for a friend) and then watched YouTube videos on installation. YouTube is a wonderful resource – I successfully installed all four packages!

Q: How Many Hives Do You Have Now?

I dream about having three hives, but right now I have seven. Three of the hives are nucs with queens I have raised, that I hope to use for re-queening in the spring.

When I started beekeeping I could not understand why people would talk about having more hives than they actually wanted. Now I know.

Q: What Is The Most Interesting Thing About Beekeeping?

I find raising queens very interesting and as part of that being able to change the character of a hive. This past year I had two feisty hives that were very difficult to work; but I managed to turn them around by introducing eggs from a beekeeping friend who had nice-to-handle hives. It makes such a difference to open a hive and not get chased, stung or harassed.

Q: What Do You See as the Biggest Challenge Facing Beekeepers?

I think the biggest challenge for most beekeepers today is dealing with the many changing conditions:  whether climate, the environment, pests or disease. Sometimes you can put a lot of time and effort into a hive for minimal rewards. For example, some years honey production is not great but the bees still require time and attention.

Q: What Advice Do You Have For New Beekeepers?
  1. Know what you are getting into. I’ve overhead people say that they would like to put a hive in their garden and harvest honey. Beekeepers know it is just not that simple. There is a tremendous amount of time, money and knowledge that goes into beekeeping and you need to understand that. Also, as a beekeeper you have a responsibility to other beekeepers to keep your hive healthy. If your hive gets pests or diseases it can negatively affect surrounding hives.
  2. Get a mentor and a bee buddy. Beekeeping, especially for a beginner, is so much easier when you can bounce ideas off another beekeeper; talk about what you are seeing, and what you notice in their hives, and what they see in yours. Also heavy honey supers are made lighter with two pairs of hands.
  3. Join a bee club and become part of a beekeeping community.
Q: For You What Are The Greatest Rewards of Beekeeping?

I love working in the garden and seeing honeybees on the plants and flowers – bees make a garden complete.