Last year, the Pearsons were able to harvest 60 pounds of honey from their hives.
That's not to say that everything has gone perfectly. Over the last winter, five of their seven hives failed as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder. Pearson said she sent samples of dead bees to the Department of Agriculture for analysis, but a cause could not be determined.
Because of the collapses, this is a rebuilding year, she said. The couple divided one of their hives into two - a process known as "splitting" - and the new hives won't be harvested this year.
"They're really developing tremendously," she said of the growing hives.
The Pearsons' landscaping choices are based on the bees. At Sharon's parents' home, the Pearsons planted a garden after getting the bees, and it has grown to include fruit trees and a variety of vegetables, all of which help the insects.
"We're very bee-sensitive here," she said. "We don't use pesticides. We try to plant for them."
Pearson said she has never had any problems with her neighbors even though bees can travel up to two miles from the hive. The bees don't congregate except at the hive itself and near the path they use to enter the hive, known as the "beeline."
Camaraderie develops among beekeepers, May said, as older beekeepers mentor younger ones and beekeepers of any age share experiences and ideas. In the local bee association, social barriers drop, and judges and doctors can be seen working alongside service industry workers.
That sense of bonding through the bees has even spread to the Pearsons as a couple. Together, they repair and maintain their hives and process the honey that is made. In fact, one of their Langstroth hives has "Happy Anniversary" written under the lid.
Beekeepers in West Virginia are regulated by the Apiary Program, an office in the West Virginia Department of Agriculture's Marketing & Development Division. State law mandates that beekeepers register their hives with the state, and hives are subject to inspection to ensure that they are sound and free of disease.
The state Legislature has established guidelines for beekeeping through the Department of Agriculture, which beekeepers are required to follow. Those rules include provisions such as where beehives can and should be placed, and the posting of signs warning visitors to the property that beehives are present.
Honey produced from any hive can vary in flavor and aroma and usually depends on the nearest nectar source. A wide variety of honey types can be produced in this state, thanks to the diversity of plant species.
"West Virginia is sort of rare in the fact that there are these different honeys. . .that most states don't have," May said. "It's a great opportunity for beekeepers in this state."
Beekeepers also can harvest other products from their hives. One is beeswax, which can be used to make candles and cosmetic products.
The Kanawha Valley Beekeepers Association can be reached by emailing May at gs....@suddenlink.com.
The association has a website, www.kanawhavalleybeekeepers.com, but the group is currently looking for a new webmaster and the site hasn't been updated recently.
The association invites anyone interested in learning about beekeeping to attend one of its meetings, which are held bimonthly at the St. Albans Public Library. The next meeting is 10 a.m. July 20.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Mur...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.
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