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First Person

Hive talking

Mike Graney, 37, the Somerville-based beekeeper behind Eat Local Honey, leads a workshop on Saturday at Mattapan’s City Natives nursery.

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By Shira Springer
September 26, 2010

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Why did you start keeping bees? My dad kept bees and he never really taught me how to do it. But he got me addicted to honey. So when I moved out of the house, I started a hive just to supply my own habit.

What will the workshop focus on? In the fall, we take the honey off the hives and prepare the colony for winter. I show people what I’m doing as I’m working.

What should aspiring New England beekeepers know before starting hives, particularly in urban areas? The city is a great place for keeping bees. There’s a common misunderstanding that bees need big wide fields or forests. We have really diverse flora in the city that bees can go after.

Does honey harvested in Jamaica Plain taste different from honey harvested in Cambridge or the Midwest? There’s something definitely different that blooms around here, but you’d have a challenge pulling out flavors from Jamaica Plain that would be different from 3 miles away. The guys in the Midwest park their bees in a field that’s 100 miles of nothing but clover in every direction. The honey just tastes like clover.

What challenges do New England winters present? Bees don’t hibernate. They cluster into a ball and keep warm by shivering together. So, the more cold air I can keep out of the hive, the less energy it will take them to generate heat. I restrict the entrance so cold air isn’t flowing in and wrap the hive with insulation.

Why don’t you wear all the traditional beekeeping gear? I’ve sort of trained myself to not use the gloves. A lot of professional guys choose not to use gloves because they believe you can spread diseases between hives.

What’s the best way to treat bee stings? Emu oil has this incredible property for treating things like burns. So, I bought a vial of emu oil from an emu farmer in Western Massachusetts. I put it on my bee stings and it works.

How did you overcome fear of being stung? It takes a while. My philosophy is you’ve got to take your lumps. It goes with the territory.

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