Local beekeepers catch queens for famed St. Albans beekeeper Mike Palmer’s 50th anniversary.
FRANKLIN COUNTY — In a sunny field just off Kellogg Road in St. Albans, a group of 25 stood wearing an assortment of nets and hats. In their hands and swirling in the air around them were hundreds of bees.
The group gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate local and world-renowned beekeeper Mike Palmer. After buying his first two packs of bees back in 1974, Palmer is now in his 50th year of beekeeping. Over the decades, Palmer has become known internationally for his beekeeping methods with his brood of over 1,000 bee colonies.
Instead of gathering in a party hall to celebrate Palmer’s accomplishments, the group of beekeepers gathered in the place they and Palmer love best: a grassy field surrounded by the little yellow creatures that brought them all together in the first place.
When Palmer pulled up to the field to find 25 people waiting for him instead of the usual four or five, he was surprised and overwhelmed by the support.
“It means everything,” Palmer said. “It doesn’t feel like 50 years.”
Stationed at the 30-some hives placed throughout the field, partygoers took to searching for queen bees among the sticky honey and the dozens of bees attached to each frame.
With each queen found, the beekeepers carried her over to Palmer. Holding the queen in his hand with ease, Palmer took a dot of red paint to label her and put her in her own box, a throne of sorts. Guests watched on with each queen Palmer labeled, admiring his deftness with the small creatures.
Of the 1,200-some queen bees Palmer raises every summer, he sells half of them to beekeepers nationwide.
“This is my favorite thing to do…it’s nice to make nice honey, but it’s so much nicer to make nice queens and to send them all over the country,” Palmer said. “People write back, they call me on the phone; that, to me, is the reward.”
Guests at the party ranged from beekeepers who have been involved in the practice for decades, to amateurs. Yet with one guest qualifying herself as an “amateur” with eight years of experience, it is clear that learning is never really over in the beekeeping world…..
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