Pollen Nation: Beekeeper uses honey for health

Courtesy photo Beekeeping scholarship award winner Bryce Laurendeau, a Bedford High School senior headed for Bridgewater State University and the Aviation Science program there, completed a senior graduation project that entailed establishing a colony of honey bees. He now has won an additional two hives and a wealth of equipment as part of this year’s Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award, a third annual contest founded by a now-departed Hollis beekeeper, Jim Hirni, and currently sponsored by fellow members of Hirni’s beekeeping club, the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, one of 10 regional New Hampshire groups whose members are beekeepers or enthusiasts.

Eyes watery with allergies due to high pollen counts may further blur the television newscasts that tout the day’s pollen count ahead of last night’s sports scores.

The count – a measure of the pollen grains in a cubic meter of air – is always bad news to sufferers of “Seasonal Rhinitis” – hay fever. Nevertheless, one of the eldest of old wives tales, the use of honey as an alleviator, may have some credit. Some 16 million afflicted in the past 12 months are documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bedford’s Bryce Laurendeau, 18, is one inclined to use the natural remedy. It is purported among enthusiasts to build a resistance to the pollen allergy, as might a vaccination injecting a substance with the goal of increasing a tolerance to it.

“I was skeptical, but was willing to try anything,” Laurendeau said. “Within five days I noticed a difference.”

The Bedford High senior, whose great-great grandfather was a beekeeper in New York, soon will be harvesting his own honey, nurtured in a beehive that is home to thousands of honey bees. The enterprise fulfilled his senior project and is an avenue to a steady supply of golden honey.

Courtesy photo Bryce Laurendeau, winner of the third annual Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award, an honor named for the late Jim Hirni, of Hollis, whose desire in founding the award was to promote beekeeping among young people, inspects a small wooden container that houses a queen bee and some worker bees who are attendants to the queen and soon will be a part of the coterie of thousands of honey bees that are a part of any honey bee colony. The scholarship is now hosted by the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, a group of more than 100 aficionados and beekeeping practitioners. Membership in the MVBA for Laurendeau and two beehives, along with a complete supply of equipment used to manage the hives was a part of the award, provided by Hillside Apiaries, of Merrimack, and B-Line Apiaries, of Hudson – members of the MVBA. Laurendeau already had established a beehive as his senior project at Bedford High School and plans on using the honey produced from all three hives as a sweetener and as an alleviator of spring hay fever.

He credits his mom, Jackie, for telling him about someone who had severe allergies that abated when local honey, gathered by honey bees from regional grasses, flowers, trees and vegetable blossoms, was regularly consumed. It is flavorful on cereal, in tea or otherwise by the sweet spoonful.

Jackie and her husband, Denis Laurendeau, and their daughter, Kaitlyn, a junior at Bedford High, are not surprised at the beekeeping project.

“Bryce did his Eagle scout project on bats,” said Jackie. “The bees didn’t surprise us, too much.”

The anecdote about the young beekeeper’s scepticism recently became a part of an essay that in May won for him a beekeeping scholarship. The prize was two beehives, a double supply of honey bees, numbering at least 20,000, and the equipment needed to tend the hives. He now manages three hives.

The bounty was the award in this year’s third annual Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award contest, presented by the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, one of 10 groups statewide that are populated by beekeeping practitioners and enthusiasts.

Courtesy photo The bright yellow pollen of dandelions, along with other tiny grains of pollen that fertilize thousands of spring flowers, grasses, vegetable blossoms and trees, provides a rich cache for these honey bees, seen here in a frame from one of three beehives belonging to Bryce Laurendeau, a Bedford High School graduating senior and recent Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award winner whose essay on bees topped five others submitted to the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, facilitators of the award founded three years ago by a MVBA club member, the late Jim Hirni, a Hollis beekeeper and advocate of the promotion of beekeeping among young people. Laurendeau recently established a beehive as a senior project for Bedford High and now has won two more beehives, protective apparel and equipment as part of the scholarship award, one that has enabled a potential source of gallons of golden honey, a remedy he has found effective against seasonal hay fever.

Hirni was a Hollis beekeeper and MVBA member, who before his death to cancer founded the scholarship to encourage beekeeping among young people. The Laurendeau essay on the value of honey bees was selected from five submissions in this year’s contest, now hosted by the MVBA.

Laurendeau was congratulated by Spencer Lovette, of Mont Vernon, president of the MVBA, and Scholarship Coordinator Allen Lindahl, of Merrimack, owner of Hillside Apiaries. The MVBA club, comprised of more than 100 novice and expert beekeepers, gathers on the first Saturday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the function hall at St. James United Methodist Church in Merrimack. Facebook keeps club members abreast of other activities.

A Bee School hosted there annually by the club in March draws more than a hundred participants. Enrollment in the next bee school and an MVBA membership is a part of the Laurendeau scholarship award.

“I’m so pleased to have a new beekeeper in our midst,” Lovette said. “It’s a good sign for the future.”

Lindahl concurred. He added that honey bees are crucial to the pollination of plants and crops that provide food for humans and animals. Beekeeping is a vital activity in need of more participants, he added.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Bryce Laurendeau, of Bedford, center, a senior at Bedford High, has been named winner of the third annual Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship, an award presented here by Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association President Spencer Lovette, left, of Mont Vernon, and MVBA Scholarship Coordinator Allen Lindahl, of Merrimack, who is the owner of Hillside Apiaries, an enterprise that along with B-Line Apiaries, owned by Alden Marshall, of Hudson, supplied the Bedford High School graduating senior with everything needed to establish the award prize of beekeeping equipment, apparel, tools and two beehives that included thousands of honey bees whose future production of honey will alleviate the young beekeeper’s seasonal hay fever, as he contends that other honey supplies have successfully done in the past.

“The annual scholarship presents a way for a young person to get involved in beekeeping at no expense,” Lindahl said. “It’s a value of around $1,200 that leads to a great learning experience.”

The Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award includes two complete, multi-tiered wooden beehives, a full set of beekeeping equipment and protective bee apparel donated by Hillside Apiaries.

The setup is completed by Alden Marshall, of Hudson, the owner of B-Line Apiaries, who each year adds two large “packages” of bees, each housed in a sturdy box containing thousands of honey bees and a queen bee.

“I did my senior project on beekeeping and started a hive that is now three hives, thanks to this award,” Laurendeau said. “I’ll take the honey for allergies – it’s medicinal.”

Other proponents of the qualities of honey are Martha Walters and her husband, Bruce, owners since 1988 of the Black Forest Cafe and Bakery in Amherst. She stocks a varied selection of local honey.

The elixir, sourced from Buzz ‘n’ Bee Apiary in Epping and other area beekeepers, is displayed nearby cases of locally produced cheeses, cookies, fruit pies and decorated cakes.

“We appreciate the well known health benefits of raw honey, such as being a great source of antioxidants, antibacterial properties and help for digestive issues,” said Martha. “Besides, it tastes great.”

Lindahl, who mentored Laurendeau as the graduate’s senior project evolved into a real-life beekeeping operation, noted that the winner of the scholarship award has a unique opportunity.

“He is getting involved in beekeeping and learning the science,” Lindahl said. “Beekeeping is so important to our food supply, as honey bees pollinate the flowers that produce our fruit and vegetables.”