This From the Field Feature is courtesy of New York Folkore Staff Folklorist – Anne Rappaport Berliner. Since late 2021 she has been working with beekeepers in the Mohawk Valley.

The Mohawk Valley has a rich history of beekeeping.  Moses Quinby, an important figure in beekeeping history, lived and worked in the valley.  Today there are Mohawk Valley beekeepers carrying on the legacy.  Many are members of the Southern Adirondack Beekeeper Association,  an important group in the area.  However, anyone who is anyone will tell you that Carl Jurica was the center of a tight knit beekeeping community.

A smoker filled with hay

The hive smoker was invented by Moses Quinby in 1873.

Carl was a lifelong beekeeper in Johnstown, NY.  He passed away just a few weeks after I interviewed him in October 2021.  His legacy lives on through his mentees, students, friends, and of course his bees. In addition to Carl’s community, I recently started interviewing beekeepers in other parts of the Capital Region, “BEE” they backyard or commercial keepers.  I have learned about bees themselves and of course, tried lots of honey.  The dark honey – called wildflower, produced by bees in the fall is my favorite.

A beekeeper locks up his beeyard, his dog by his side

Scott Hart locks up his beeyard.

If you spend more than a few minutes talking to a beekeeper, you will hear them talk about their “girls” AKA the bees!  Most bees in a hive are female – no matter their job, nursing, gathering, or building.  It is unlikely you will find a keeper who doesn’t talk to their “girls.”  Experienced beekeepers can tell how the hives feel based on their sound and behavior.  Conversation between the bees and their keepers are common!

When a bee leaves their hive in search of food, it returns to its hive by recognizing the visual attributes of its home.  Because of this, beekeepers often paint their hives bright colors.  I have seen rainbows of hives as well as individual images.  One of my favorite hives is in the keeper’s home.  The bees naturally found their way into the house, and the keeper fitted the hive with glass cover so it can be viewed from the inside!

I’m hoping to continue expanding my interviews past the Mohawk Valley and into the greater Capital Region.  I have been asked by many of the folks I meet if I’ll ever keep bees, and though I’m not ready yet, I get the feeling it is just a matter of time.  I do love honey!

Are you a New York State folklorist or community scholar? We would love to publish your “From the Field.” Email Anne, [email protected] to “BEE” featured.

The featured photo is a painted beehive by Carl Jurica