Event draws like bees to honey

The Recorder, September 23, 2013. By Chris Curtis

DEERFIELD — Honey, not surprisingly, drew a crowd Saturday for Bonita and Dan Conlon’s annual celebration of bees, beekeeping and bee products.

The couple own and operate Warm Colors Apiary on South Mill River Road in South Deerfield, where Saturday they hosted the free event with lectures, a cooking demonstration, mead contest and honey and mead samplings.

“We do it to celebrate the honeybee. The honeybee is the only insect we get food from,” Bonita Conlon said. Beeswax also has a variety of uses, she said, including the candles the apiary sells, alongside honey, bee hives and queen bees.

“They’re like the Swiss army knives of the insect world,” Conlon said.

An Ohio native himself, Dan Conlon says Massachusetts and the area have strong beekeeping roots. The Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth, one-time minister of the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, in the 1800s, invented what is now the world-standard artificial beehive.

Saturday afternoon, Hugh L’Etoile, 3, applied himself seriously to the comparative honey sampling. His sister Edith, 11∕2 months old, slept.

Their mother, Robin L’Etoile, said the family had just come to check it out. The L’Etoiles are farmers themselves in Northfield and while they do not raise bees they do grow buckwheat, among the favored honeybee food sources.

The bees forbore from demonstrating their other knife-like property, keeping mostly to themselves and to the sticky necks of honey bottles.

“I can’t think of anything better to do on a fall afternoon,” said Scott Franklin of Connecticut.

Franklin and Jill Morawski, also of Connecticut, attended the festival by chance, stopping off during a bicycle ride from Northampton on one of the several routes of the Northampton Cycling Club’s BikeFest. The two said they stopped taking the ride too seriously after repeated issues with flat tires delayed their start.

Others were there with a purpose. Will Savitri, a co-owner of Green River Ambrosia, delivered a lecture on the art of mead-making to more than a dozen listeners and quite a few in attendance were aspiring beekeepers, several having learned from Dan Conlon.

In addition to selling honey, Conlon breeds bees, teaches beekeeping and sells frame hives and bees.

Student Nick Moscaritolo of Greenfield said he recently took a course in beekeeping offered by Clifford Hatch of Upinngil Farm because it showed up in the Greenfield Community College course offerings, and has since begun to work part time for Dan Conlon and expects to sell his first batch of honey by the beginning of April.

“I love the outdoors. I like working with bees and having two thousand friends that buzz around,” he said.