Site last updated: Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Log In

Reset Password
MENU
Butler County's great daily newspaper

Quite a buzz forming over new book, honey

Bee biology breakdown
Dr. Tracy Farone, an academic veterinarian who teaches biology at Grove City College, with a frame from one of her 12 honeybee colonies. Her book, "Honey Bee Vet: The Adventures of a Veterinarian Seeking to Doctor One of the World's Most Important Animals," uses "frames" instead of chapters.

Dr. Tracy Farone has traveled the U.S., Europe and the British Isles learning about honeybees, and now readers can reap the benefits of her wealth of knowledge on the tiny insect with the huge impact.

“Honey Bee Vet: The Adventures of a Veterinarian Seeking to Doctor One of the World’s Most Important Animals” is available online at retailers like Target, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble as well as on the publisher’s website, northernbeebooks.co.uk.

Farone, an academic veterinarian who teaches biology at Grove City College, said her flight into the world of beekeeping and honeybee health began in 2017, when the Federal Drug Administration mandated beekeepers could no longer treat their colonies with antibiotics without a veterinary prescription.

The decision was made to prevent antibiotic resistance.

“Beekeepers were not used to working with veterinarians, and veterinarians were not used to working with beekeepers, so it created this very interesting dynamic,” said Farone, who is a Worth Township resident.

She applied for and was granted a sabbatical from her scholarly duties at Grove City College to study the problem and traveled to Europe and Scotland to observe their beekeeping tenets.

There, she made an interesting discovery.

“All through Europe, bees are considered an agricultural animal and are managed agriculturally, but in the U.S., veterinarians are not trained in bees,” Farone said. “There was nothing in my veterinarian school on bees at all.”

So she traveled throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to hang out with beekeepers.

“I’d basically knock on their doors and ask if I could help,” she said.

Using this method, she also studied large, commercial beekeeping companies in Montana.

“In the U.S., the vast majority of honeybee colonies are commercial,” she said. “They are loaded onto trucks, driven around the country and parked in yards, orchards or fields to pollinate crops,” Farone said.

She said there are more than 2 million honeybee colonies in the U.S. that help pollinate crops.

“In January and February every year, about 2.2 million colonies of honeybees go to the almond orchards of California, because almost 90% (of the orchards) are dependent on honeybees for pollination,” Farone said.

After the almond trees are sufficiently pollinated by the buzzing workers, the bees are loaded back onto the trucks and taken to the apple and cherry orchards in Oregon, the citrus orchards in Florida, and the blueberry fields of New England.

Farone said those who see honeybees on the clover and other flowering plants in their backyards can be sure there is an apiary within a 3-mile radius of that property.

Farone explained that honeybees in the wild do not survive because of myriad and ever-changing diseases that affect and kill honeybees.

Beekeepers operating an apiary are brought up to speed each year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding current diseases affecting honeybees.

Bees in an apiary are then treated with antibiotics or given a mite treatment to kill the disease or prevent it from entering the colonies.

“The big disease now is varroa mites,” Farone said. “It’s the top disease killing honeybees.”

Farone is more than just an author on the condition of bees; she maintains 12 colonies of honeybees at the Grove City campus and four at her home in Worth Township.

“The goal of the sabbatical was to bring an apiary to Grove City College to teach students about honeybees, because there is so much biology in understanding how they work.”

She said medicine is administered to colonies by placing strips in the hives that expose the bees to it, by placing it in sugar water, or in other ways.

Farone and her students remove the honey produced by the bees before administering medicine, and give the rich, sweet elixir away.

She said a successful honeybee colony can produce 100 pounds of honey in a year.

Honey can be clear or pale right up to almost black, depending on the bees’ main nectar sources.

She said while many farm markets and others sell local honey, the only way to ensure honey is without added ingredients is to harvest it yourself.

Farone said some honey is overprocessed and overheated so it won’t crystallize in the jar, or contains pesticides.

“Unless you see it being extracted from the hive and put into a bottle, you don’t know what’s in there,” she said. “People can ask the beekeeper if they can tour their facility and see their process.

“If they say no, you should probably move on.”

Farone said honey has nutritional and medicinal benefits, and is used in wound care in both humans and veterinary care.

She sighs when asked how many times she has been stung since she began studying honeybees.

“You do. It’s part of it,” Farone said. “My body doesn’t react to it anymore.”

She said she stopped counting at 1,000 stings.

“I wear a bee jacket and veil, and sometimes gloves and thick pants,” she said.

Farone has an issue with those who say honeybees should be eradicated because, as an invasive species brought from Europe in the 1600s, they are crowding out native pollinators.

She said while Africanized bees, known as “killer bees,” are a human health hazard and should be eradicated, Americans would lose about one-third of the food they eat without honeybees.

“They are not invasive, they are an agricultural species,” Farone said. “We rely on honeybees for pollination of our crops.”

Bee book

Farone said she has been writing articles and a column for Bee Culture magazine since 2020.

Most of her writing is on the importance of honeybee health, and she compiled her 50 to 60 articles into a book.

“I wanted it to appeal to a wide audience, including veterinarians, beekeepers and the general public,” Farone said.

Instead of chapters, “Honey Bee Vet” has eight “frames,” just like a colony of bees in an apiary.

The bees build a honeycomb, breed, lay eggs, care for their queen, and create honey on the eight rectangular frames in the box.

She said she decided to write a book to provide a comprehensive handbook where anyone can access information about beekeeping.

“I wanted to put everything together in one place because I get a lot of people who ask me questions about different things,” Farone said.

The book came out in May 2024.

Book: Honey Bee Vet by Tracy Farone. Submitted Photo
Dr. Tracy Farone, an academic veterinarian who teaches biology at Grove City College, has written a book about the small-but-mighty honeybee.

More in Community

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

* indicates required
TODAY'S PHOTOS