For the good of the hive: Southwest Virginia beekeepers work to make their hives thrive

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Beekeeping dates back thousands of years. The technology has changed in some aspects, but beekeepers — commercial and hobbyist — take pride in their hives.

“It’s a real thrill of life, because you’re getting to see the process of life from the very beginning to the end final thing of beekeeping itself,” said Mark Paradis, owner of Paradis Apiary in Vinton and President of the Blue Ridge Beekeepers Association. “You’re not only watching it, but you’re being a part of it.”

John Gordon works with honey bees at Blue Spring Run Farm in Covington. He has practiced beekeeping in Virginia and Florida, as well.

“I fell in love with it,” Gordon said. “You can talk to most people that get into beekeeping, [the bees] are almost like a pet.”

However, beekeeping is not an exact science. Gordon had to make changes in his beekeeping technique when he moved from Florida to Virginia.

Weather, chemical pesticides, and pests play a large role in beekeeping.

“People get really upset when they lose one or start having problems with them,” Gordon said. “That’s why you see a lot of groups, a lot of boards — people asking questions.”

Mark Paradis, along with his daughter McKenna, practice beekeeping in the Vinton. They started their first hive in February 2019. The father-daughter team gained their beekeeping knowledge from classes and area beekeepers.

While each beekeeper may take care of and construct their hives differently, Gordon and Mark Paradis say finding a mentor or local beekeeper is one of the best ways to learn more about beekeeping.

“There’s a ton of members who love to learn” Mark said. “They love to go out and work with bees, and it’s a different way of life that a lot of people just don’t understand. So we’re always trying to educate the public on what’s going on.”

McKenna stressed the importance of the Blue Ridge Beekeepers Association meetings. Usually the group of more than 40 people would meet once a month at the Department of Environmental Quality building in Salem. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the group conducts biweekly Zoom meetings.

McKenna says these meetings are helpful when it comes to keeping members up-to-date on bee-related events and discussing problems with hives.

“No one knows everything,” McKenna said, “but when we’re together as a community and as a club we’re learning more about bees in general and we’re helping one another to succeed and to make our hives thrive.”

Both Gordon and Paradis recommend talking with local beekeepers if there are issues with a hive. Here are a few beekeeping associations and groups within the region:

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