Backyard beekeepers: Father, daughter begin a new hobby to help the environment

Saturday, July 31, 2010
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This story appears in the August edition of TBY magazine, inserted into the Monday, Aug. 2 edition of the Southeast Missourian.

Seventy-eight-year-old John Yallaly first became interested in beekeeping some 60-plus years ago, but it wasn't until his retirement in 1985 that he pursued that interest. "We had a neighbor down on Hanover Street who had bees and I would go with him to look at the bees," says the Cape Girardeau man. Six months ago, his 46-year-old daughter, Kathy Coffman, was stung by the same curiosity after reading a news article about bee shortages affecting pollination.

"Pollination is so necessary for growing flowers, fruits, vegetables and numerous other forms of plant life, and nationally, there has been a decline in bees," says Coffman. She knows one Southeast Missouri beekeeper who lost 25 percent of his bees last winter, further concerning her.

So father and daughter decided to do something about the issue. They read a story about keeping bees in an urban setting by using a a "top bar" beehive, a type frequently used in Africa, says Coffman. That particular hive is low-cost and easy to build, so Yallaly and Coffman chose that model to house their bees.

"It's so exciting to watch them work," says Coffman. "Bees are amazing creatures. Each colony consists of a queen, male drones and female workers. The workers collect pollen, make the comb and attend to the queen. The queen lays eggs to replenish the hive. A worker bee, during the height of nectar flow, may only live three to five weeks."

Coffman and Yallaly count their hives only as a hobby. "Honey is harvested along with the comb, but we don't plan to take too much from the bees, since they need honey to sustain the colony over the winter," says Coffman. And as for the potential for stings: "Bees are very gentle, however, when you're working a hive you should use precautionary measures to protect yourself, such as face netting and gloves."

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