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Bethlehem neighbors abuzz over backyard bees

"I have a ton of fun, I really enjoy it," Bauer said.

Many local beekeepers attended the public hearing in support of Bauer's proposal, including Roberta Glatz of Feura Bush, past president of the Empire State Honey Producers.

"Bees are good neighbors," said Glatz. "They go about their business unnoticed, and they share your yard."

The bee season usually begins in April or May and lasts until the fall when they begin to make honey. Last year, Bauer's bees produced 75 jars of honey.

"I like having the honey around, and I gave most of it away," Bauer said. "I have been cooking a lot with it."

Bauer named four different beekeepers living in Bethlehem, one on Winne Road, who also produce honey in their backyards. Because those residents had beehives prior to the town's new comprehensive plan, they are allowed to keep the hives on their property because they're grandfathered in.

The application that sits with the town planning board calls for two beehives on Bauer's property, with each hive having a queen bee. Currently Gwendolyn, Caroline, and Jane, Bauer's three queen bees, are resting comfortably inside each of the three hives off Bender Road. Visitors to the hives can observe the drones outside looking for a virgin queen bee while the workers look for food and those inside the hive work to maintain the hive for the queen.

Disease is a constant concern for beekeepers, who keep enough food and sugar water around the hives so the bees will stay warm. Colony collapse or fall dwindle disease, which have received recent media attention, are threatening the bee population. In late 2006, many bee colonies died off to the point where only half of those colonies exist today. No one is quite yet sure of the reason.

"Some people feel it is pesticides disorienting bees, others think it is general stress from different infections the bees get," Bauer said.

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