Beekeeping runs in Brooke Decker’s blood. Her grandfather kept bees commercially, and her mother and aunt are backyard beekeepers in southeast Ohio, where Decker grew up. Now, for an internship in the environmental education program in AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies, Decker is refining her own beekeeping skills as well as teaching them to others.
In her internship, Decker works with Dick Brigham, a longtime commercial beekeeper in Cuttingsville, Vermont. Brigham has many colonies, or hives, of bees, gathered in bee yards throughout Vermont’s Lake Champlain Valley. The days can be long, especially in the spring, when Decker helps Brigham check the colonies.
“You can spend a long day, sunrise to sundown,” Decker said. “We have to make sure the bees have survived the winter, that they each have a queen and that the queen is laying eggs. We have to make sure they’re recovering from the winter and getting ready for the season.”
In May, she helped move colonies of bees to pollinate apple orchards such as Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, New Hampshire. The bees must be trucked to the orchards at night, when they’re inside the hives and inactive.
Decker also sells Brigham’s honey at the Londonderry, Vermont, farmers’ market. Many of the people she talked to at the market said they would like to keep bees themselves. As a result, she is organizing several workshops for local home-schooled children and community members interested in learning more about bees. In the future, she hopes to offer a more advanced “essentials of backyard beekeeping” class for those who want to get started themselves.
Decker’s year with bees has taught her much; she can now tell when bees are stressed from moving their hives, for instance, and how to recognize a freshly laid egg in the comb. “The more I learn, the less I realize I know,” she said. “This year I’m definitely paying more attention to the bees.”
Read about other internships students in AUNE’s environmental education are undertaking.