Buzz-worthy: Teen beekeeper’s hives thriving
Laurendeau, 18, a June graduate of Bedford High who now is headed for Bridgewater State University and its aviation sciences program, established a colony of honey bees as his senior project. The task entailed acquiring hive boxes, tools, and protective gear, plus a supply of thousands of honey bees. The enterprise won for him a prestigious honor, the “Overall Excellence” award at the school’s awards’ night on June 14.
“Winning the award was a surprise,” said Laurendeau. “The project was something not seen before and many people took note of it.”
Later, he became the winner of two additional beehive setups. They were the grand prize for an essay on bees that he wrote for submission to the third annual Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award contest. The contest was founded by the late Jim Hirni, a Hollis beekeeper well respected for promoting beekeeping among young people.
Hirni succumbed to to cancer in 2017. The Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association now sponsors the scholarship contest in tribute to his wish to share the art and the science of beekeeping with newcomers.
Laurendeau said he coped with the recent heatwave by ensuring his bees had easy access to water in a nearby birdbath accented with some submerged stones for the bees to stand upon, so they could sip without drowning. He checked that the shade cast from nearby trees was helping to cool the hives. Honey bees air-condition their homes by fanning their wings but overheating can be stressful.
“Sometimes, honey bees will gather by the hundreds outside the hive when the weather is really hot,” Laurendeau said. “The sight is strange but natural.”
The tending of the three beehives requires substantial effort. Laurendeau dons a heavy canvas bee suit with a hood that features a mesh face-plate. He uses various hive tools to inspect the innards of the three hives and the vigor of the three resident queen bees. The three hives have more than 60,000 honey bees, insects raised by the thousands down south at
reputable bee farms. The cargo, toted in dozens of 3-pound boxes, is fetched by truck in the spring by professional beekeepers who trust the sources and take orders from locals.
Each hive setup includes a queen bee ready to start laying around 1,500 eggs each day. The hatched are a new generation of honey bees, mostly female worker bees and a few drones – layabouts born solely to mate with passersby, virgin queens flying overhead on airborne mating flights.
The scholarship beehives and accouterments are mostly donated by Allen Lindahl, owner of Hillside Apiaries in Merrimack and Alden Marshall, the owner of B-Line Apiaries in Hudson. The contest is highly acclaimed by more than 100 members of the MVBA, one of 10 groups statewide that are a part of the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association, a nonprofit with a membership of beekeeping professionals, hobbyists and enthusiasts.
Some members also belong to “Honeybees911.com,” an organization that matches swarm reporters with swarm catchers. A swarm takes place when clouds of thousands of bees and their queen decide to vacate an overcrowded hive or otherwise fly off to seek a new home. The swarm may rest on a fence or in a tree branch. Laurendeau has yet to experience the exodus of any of his Bedford bees. He is ensuring their homes have room to spare.
Laurendeau said the beekeeping experience has taught him a lifelong skill he hopes to continue to use for “a long time.”
“I’m so happy that I chose to become a beekeeper,” he said. “Just meeting other people that show the same passion is great and beekeeping is so much fun.”
Laurendeau also is an Eagle Scout. He focused on conservation when he completed his Eagle Scout project – on bats.