Bee lovers expand their knowledge at Honey Festival

The Recorder, September 16, 2017, by Shelby Ashline

As guests of the 15th annual Honey Festival milled around Warm Colors Apiary Saturday sampling a plethora of honey products, the busy bees responsible for the treats buzzed past, hard at work.

Curious about how to help the bee population thrive, some filtered into a “Plants for Pollinators” presentation by Marian and Ed Szymanski, or “The State of Massachusetts Beekeeping” presentation by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Apiary Inspector Kim Skyrm.

Dan Conlon, who owns Warm Colors Apiary with his wife Bonita, said that when organizing this year’s festival, the two tried to offer more practical information about pollinators, focus more on nectar plants and teach attendees what they can do for bees on a local level.

“The simplest thing is to plant flowers that bees like,” Conlon said simply, explaining that a loss of forage is the No. 2 cause of a decline in the bee population.

Conlon recommends introducing plants — such as fruit trees, herbs or sunflowers, to name a few — so there are different species blooming at different times of year.

Pesticides, he continued, are the No. 5 cause for the decline.

“Don’t use a bunch of Raid on everything,” he said. “We let it be used in backyards all over the country. It shouldn’t be something that everybody gets to use.”

Mercedes Weaver of Uxbridge, a backyard beekeeper of six years, said she appreciated the various presentations that were suitable to guests with ranging levels of knowledge about bees.

Having met the Conlons through beekeeping, Weaver visited the Honey Festival for the first time this year.

“The flower session was outstanding, with lots of nice tips for gardening,” she noted.

Nearby, Tom Dmukauskas of Somerville looked after his infant daughters Siena and Nadia. Dmukauskas said he and his wife Kristi heard about the Honey Festival through a beekeeping friend in Montague, and decided to attend in part just to visit western Massachusetts together, finding some tasty treats at the same time.

“We certainly tasted both the honey and the ice cream,” he said. Dmukauskas also liked University of Massachusetts pastry chef Pamela Adams’ “Cooking with Honey” presentation.

Conlon said the festival might be expanded next year, possibly offering live music as it has in the past. However, keeping it small and intimate has been partially intentional.

“Part of the charm of being here is it’s quiet,” he said, remarking how guests leave feeling relaxed and with peace of mind. “We really don’t want 10,000 people.”

“People come for an hour, they leave, they chat,” Conlon continued. “It’s kind of whatever you make of it.”