Getting a buzz on

By Posted on Jan 26 2019 | By

Internationally known beekeeper to teach training course

As one gains an understanding of the Piedmont’s population, it’s inspiring to learn of the number of talented people that choose to live, work or retire here.

A newcomer may think our scenic landscape is rural living at its best. And it is. But beyond the beautiful vistas is a deep reservoir of successful men and women who are making significant contributions to the commonweal.

The intellect, drive and success of these “locals” likely outshines most rural areas in the Nation: physicians, IT professionals, writers, pilots, political mavens, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and beekeepers abound.

Beekeepers? Well yes, but one in particular: Ann Harman.

Harman lives on a farm outside of Flint Hill and has honey in her blood. “I’ve been a beekeeper since the late 1970s but I wanted to be a beekeeper from the time I was a very small child.” Like five years old.

Ann Harman

Educated as a chemist at the University of Maryland she was in the labor force until motherhood found her tending her own “hive” of three children. As they grew older, she rejoined the workforce as head of the science department at a private school in D.C.

“While at Maryland I was enrolled in agricultural classes taught by an excellent professor.”

He encouraged Harman to take up beekeeping commercially given her fascination with the little guys.

She established a 50-colony honey production operation in Maryland before eventually moving to Flint Hill where she nurtures her own four hive operation in concert with a neighbor.

One of her daughters lives separately on the farm working as a horse veterinarian.

One of the pivotal points in Harman’s life was when her former professor also urged her to join various beekeeping associations. Join she did but not as a passive member. Her love of the flying insects was too strong not to become more deeply involved.

To glance at her packed resume is to marvel how far passion can take a person.

Consider just a few of her experiences: Maryland State Beekeeper of the Year 1982; 1990 President, Eastern Apicultural Society; Vice Chairman of the board, Eastern Apicultural Society 1992-2007; President, Virginia State Beekeepers Association 2008-2010; Certified Honey Judge, Wales UK Beekeeping Institute; The President’s Volunteer Service Award, 2004, 2005, 2008; Chairman’s Award Eastern Apicultural Society 2000; Coauthor of a honey cookbook; author of international beekeeping journal articles, and on and on.

Harman is also a regular contributor as a writer and editor for a number of well-known beekeeping magazines and books, including BEE Keeping and Bee Culture. Google ‘Ann Harman beekeeper’ and watch as more than 20 links pop up.  Mention her name in bee circles and the reaction will likely be, “Oh yes, I know who she is.”

To reinforce her “doer bee” reputation, Harman connected with two international organizations and traveled worldwide for two decades teaching beekeeping, often in countries trying to establish a thriving honey production industry. During this period, she visited 29 countries on 54 separate assignments for two-week training sessions. While her expenses were covered, the work was otherwise all volunteer.

“I traveled around the world on volunteer missions because they were looking for people with experience that could help others get into the business. It was just for two weeks at a time but you can accomplish a lot in that short period,” said Harman.

Colony Collapse
Much has been written over the last decade about the decimation of the bee population commonly referred to as Colony Collapse and its harmful impact on agriculture. Harman shares an interesting insight into the problem.

“They really had no idea was happening in the beekeeping world and today we don’t actually use that term anymore. A very intelligent Ph.D. student cracked the cause of the problem. He identified a non-native parasite in our western bees. It attacks both the hive and also transmits a virus; viruses cannot be controlled with antibiotics,” said Harman.

The solution to the problem has yet to be found. “I couldn’t tell you how long it will take to find a key to the solution but there is hope today we can find a cure.”

It’s interesting that feral bee colonies that live in trees seem to be unaffected by the parasite. Such bees, however, exist in a different environment than domesticated colonies.

Classes begin soon
It’s useful to understand Harman’s breath of bee knowledge as preamble for considering spending some time with her as a mentor. Starting on February 5 at Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville, Harman will conduct a seven-class course for beginner beekeepers.

Some years ago, Harman worked with a Loudoun County beekeeper to develop the training course.

The classes are limited to 20 participants but individual families who sign up are considered a single participant. The course will cover all the basics of starting and nurturing a hive.

Students will receive two training books and a substantial amount of related written material. The course will also provide a CD containing all the information from the course for home study and as a ready-reference. The cost is $100 for the course and materials.

Students are not be expected to purchase a hive or bees prior to the course but will be trained to do so by the end of the sessions, which dovetails with the beginning of the bee season.

In summing up her expertise and love of bees, Harman said, “Bees are absolutely fascinating. Every time you open a hive you learn something new.” Anyone sitting in on Harman’s classes will also learn something new and much more from this master apiarist.

For additional information and registration details, contact Karen Hunt, treasurer, Northern Piedmont Beekeepers Association at (540) 937-4792 or at kahu9@juno.com


Published in the January 23, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.  

Categories : HAGARTY TALES