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9:48 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Prescott woman is buzzing about her bees

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<p>
Home beekeeper Sally Bagby displays her beehive in the backyard of her home in Prescott Tuesday morning.  Bagby originally started with 13,000 bees but now has close to 50,000 bees and has harvested honey from the hive.

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<p> Home beekeeper Sally Bagby displays her beehive in the backyard of her home in Prescott Tuesday morning. Bagby originally started with 13,000 bees but now has close to 50,000 bees and has harvested honey from the hive.

PRESCOTT - Lifelong Prescott resident Sally Bagby is an apiculturist - better known as a beekeeper.

"When I was young, I thought it would be fun to be a beekeeper," said Bagby, who is now in her mid-50s. "As I grew up, every once in a while I would think about it again."

This past autumn, Bagby stopped thinking about it and decided it was time to become a beekeeper, proving that it is never too late to realize your dreams or to learn something new.

The first step was to decide on the type of hive she wanted to build. She chose a top bar hive with about 25 bars running across the top of the hive box.

Once the hive was ready, it was time to order the bees.

Bagby ordered three pounds of Carniolan honeybees from a company in Oregon. In mid-April, 13,000 bees arrived at the Prescott post office, ready to make their home in Bagby's backyard.

Bagby's order included a queen and worker bees. The company had placed a red spot on the queen's thorax to distinguish her from the workers.

"As a rookie, I probably visit my hive more than I should. Experts say it is only necessary to visit the hive about eight times a year," she said.

Bagby said she continues to learn something every day.

Bees, she said, have a different lifespan according to their status, gender and the time of year.

During the summer when business is good, the female worker bees live about four weeks. In the winter, they can live about four months.

Queen bees, which can lay up to 1,500 bees a day, live for about two years.

The male drones' only job is to mate with the queen.

Bagby said the worker bees have many tasks, including cleaning out their hive cell and other cells.

"Bees are very clean. If a bee dies in a hive, the other bees will move it out," she said.

When the workers are mature enough they become guard bees. The worker bees eventually become foragers, gathering pollen to bring back to the hive.

"Bees are not really mature until a few days before they die," she said.

The drones always attend to the queen bee, Bagby said. The queen, who is at the center of the hive, does not go outside except to mate.

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, beekeepers make a medicinal syrup to ward off nozema - a stress disease.

"Bees are subject to a lot of disease and pests. That is one of the reasons bees are dying off, although no one really knows the real reason," Bagby said.

The rookie beekeeper said bees produce honey throughout the year. It is produced to nurture eggs and larva.

The brood nest, Bagby said, eats pollen and honey.

"(When) a new queen is born, the old queen leaves and takes about half of the worker bees with her. The new queen remains in the old hive," she said.

Bagby said she keeps learning more every day. She reads books and magazines about bees.

Bagby said she did not get into beekeeping for profit.

"I'll probably only produce enough honey for my family and my neighbors. At first I though I wouldn't get another hive. But, now, I think I will. It is so much fun."

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com