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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Alex Cornwell, left, pulls a frame out of the hive with Megan Ryan, right, keeping a close watch. The pair opened an apiary as a way to focus on the plight of the bees in America and hope to sell honey as a fundraiser for the Southwest Conservation Club.

  • A frame from the hive that Cornwell and Ryan were working on. Cornwell and Ryan said starting the apiary cost about $2,000.

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Beekepers Alex Cornwell, left, and Megan Ryan work on a hive frame. The pair opened an apiary as a way to focus on the plight of the bees and to sell honey as a fundraiser for the Southwest Conservation Club.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:32 am

Bees as an education tool

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

For beginner beekeepers, business is already sweet.

Entrepreneur Alex Cornwell and educator Megan Ryan are taking orders for honey produced at the Southwest Conservation Club, a fundraiser that is doing good in a couple of ways.

The two friends’ primary objective was to educate people on beekeeping and the plight of bees. Since the 1980s, bees have been victims of deadly mites. More recently, their dwindling numbers have been linked to neonicotinoids found in pesticides, experts say.

Another benefit of the project is satisfying the need for a market. People seeking relief from allergies the homeopathic way look for beekeepers within seven to 10 miles of where they live who sell an unpasteurized product. The bee pollen in the honey will immunize them from the same thing that makes their eyes water and makes them sneeze, the thinking goes.

The two have sought the advice of Dave Shenefeld, president of the Indiana Beekeeper’s Association Inc., who runs the state’s largest commercial operation, Clover Blossom Honey. He lives in LaFontaine.

"There’s nothing healthy with a green yard," Shenefeld said. "I want you to quit spraying, let the dandelions bloom, let the clover bloom." He has been a full-time beekeeper since 1977, taking over from his father who got started in the mid-1950s.

Cornwell and Ryan found pre-assembled plastic beehives that withstand the Midwest’s hot summers and installed them on the grounds of the conservation club in late March. As soon as the temperature went above 50 degrees, the hives were buzzing, they said.

"Alex and I talked about doing bees as business partners. We thought it would be awesome to be able to do, but we didn’t have the space," Ryan said. They met at the conservation club about four years ago and recently presented the idea to the board to start an apiary.

"That was really the gist of it. We wanted to focus on bee conservation, and then we wanted to work on educating. That’s a big issue," said Ryan who is director of special education at Bishop Luers High School. "A lot of people aren’t aware or know what’s going on with the declining bee population."

Cornwell, owner of the Waynedale News and other businesses, estimated the total cost of the project at $2,000. Bees were bought in one-pound packages that cost $150 apiece from Earl’s Honeybees in Roanoke. The pre-assembled frames came in around $140. Cornwell and Ryan donated their own money and were helped by one anonymous donor, Cornwell said.

Dressed in long shirts and beekeeper veils, Cornwell and Ryan have been checking on the bees and watching the honey collect in the "super." There’s from 40 to 60 pounds collected from each 10-pound frame.

"Most beekeepers can expect to see 100 to 130 pounds of honey per hive," Cornwell said.

Although they don’t have a price for their product yet, it will be sold on their website,