Alex Westenberger is buzzing about his new experiment.
Westenberger, 9, of Middletown, is the newest apiarist in town, and has hopes of breeding Northern Raised Pennsylvania queen bees by next year.
Chris Jorich, owner of Jorich Funeral Home, in Middletown, and Westenburger’s grandfather, built the hives for his grandson.
Westenberger has two hives of North Carolina honeybees and Russian bees, that sit on the edge of the second-floor roof of the funeral home.
Each hive holds approximately 160,000 bees, Jorich said.
Jorich built the wooden boxes that hold the frames the bees will call home.
Westenberger and Jorich wear protective polyester suits and cowhide gloves while working with the hives, but have gotten stung several times, Jorich said.
“Alex has been stung eight times and I was stung over 30 times in one day,” Jorich said.
Over just this past weekend, even with wearing protective gear, Jorich and Westenberger were stung, he said.
The project is in the development stage, said Westenberger, who became interested in bee keeping after attending this year’s farm show in Harrisburg.
“He [Alex] loves the bees,” said Jorich, who has begun studying pollination and working with his grandson to help collect the honey and maintaining the growing number of bees to the hives.
“My friends think it’s cool,” said Westenberger, who plans to breed 15 new colonies and raise queen bees by next year.
Since starting the hives in April, Westenberger has already seen the rewards of the project, collecting more than 160 pounds of honey two weeks ago, Jorich said.
“We were able to fill two and a half 5-gallon buckets,” he said.
Westenberger plans another extraction of honey in late September, or mid-October, Jorich said.
The honey will be bottled and distributed to family members, and is also available for sale, Jorich said.
Westenberger said the money he receives from the honey sales go right back to expanding the apiary and toward college.
“It’s just exciting and really fun,” Westenberger said.
Harvesting is done in July and then in October, Westenberger said.
“Once it’s over, the hives are prepared for winter. Fresh queens are replaced and each hive must contain at least 60 pounds of spring pollen by early summer to sustain the colony through the winter,” he said.
Building a reputation
Westenberger is listed as an apiarist with Middletown Borough, Dauphin County, and the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association.
“Alex is the only person in central Pennsylvania with a rooftop apiary,” said Jorich.
“I am quite confident the bees will raise 200-300 healthy, USDA-approved mated queen bees,” said Westenberger, who has many plans for the upcoming year.
After establishing the rooftop apiary by breeding 15 new colonies from the best of his over-wintered stock of Northern Raised Pennsylvania queens, Westenberger plans to have 30 full-scale hives in operation by the fall of 2012.
He also plans to continue extracting honey to provide to the community, he said.
“Providing local honey to those who have allergy problems with pollination and eating local honey, will help build up a tolerance to spring and fall allergies,” said Westenberger.
He also plans to start several wild hives in hollowed-out trees in the mountains to replace extinct feral colonies that once pollinated the woods, to regenerate absent growth, he said.
Westenberger plans to develop a website where he can then market and sell the Northern State Pennsylvania queens coast-to-coast, he said.
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