Sweet summer

A group of beekeepers from Merrimack, Bedford, Hollis, Brookline and other local towns, plus some from Massachusetts are among the guests at a summer picnic hosted by Diane and Mike Mattock, of Hollis, at their property, acreage that includes these five bee hives, well inspected here by some of the guests.

Trending that day were roomy white bee suits with attached mesh veils. The occasion was a summer picnic held Saturday, July 15, with 43 beekeepers in attendance at the Hollis property of Mike and Diane Mattock. A hive opening to peek at the honey bees residing among the couple’s five hives was a highlight requiring the bulky apparel. Diane elaborated.

“It was wonderful to have so many guests,” said Diane. “Beekeeping is such a good thing. We talked bees without being in a rush and had so much great food. I loved having people over to see our hives.”

Hollis, Merrimack, Bedford and Brookline beekeepers, along with many from other local towns and a good showing from Massachusetts were among the attendees from the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association (MVBA). The club is one of nine member groups of the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association, an entity supportive of education and resources for bee enthusiasts.

The event included a check presentation of $1,900 to Cheryl Hirni, of Hollis, and her son, Jim Hirni, visiting from South Carolina, The funds, $1,000 from the MVBA and $900 from other donors, were made in memory of Jim’s dad and Cheryl’s husband, the late Jim Hirni, to

augment an annual scholarship for would-be beekeepers established by the elder Hirni. The recipients responded with tearful thanks.

“We will keep this scholarship going,” the younger Jim said. “It will continue on, even if Cheryl moves to South Carolina.”

Club member Jim Hirni, who succumbed to brain cancer, founded the beekeeping scholarship two years ago. It was designed to promote the practice among young people. Its value of more than $1,000 secures for the winner tuition to the club’s annual bee school, two hives, equipment and a certificate for a supply of thousands of honey bees.

The initial Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award went last year to Sam Ashoo, of Bedford, on the strength of a well written essay submitted to the club. This year, the scholarship was won by Emilie Fitzgerald, of New Boston. Club members Allen Lindahl, of Merrimack, owner of Hillside Apiaries, and Alden Marshall, of Hudson, owner of B-Line Apiaries supplied the set-ups.

Guests at the summer picnic shuttled between the barbecue grill outside where hot dogs, steak tips and chicken earned their charcoal stripes and an open garage completely renovated into a recreation room with tables, benches, toys for the couple’s grandkids and beekeeping doo-dads. Salads and chips and cold cuts were selected there before most made way to seating at tables shaded by umbrellas or on dozens of folding chairs.

Some bottles of mead, a sensuous honey wine sometimes fermented with berries, was supplied by members including David Ross, of Atkinson, club president, and John Hamblet, of Lowell, Mass., the club’s vice-president. Kathy and Ken Kuhn, of Candia, contributed bite-sized chunks of honeycomb, an edible delight. Hamblet and fellow beekeeper Louisa Varnum, also of Lowell, organize the club’s annual bee school, an enterprise that this spring drew 120 participants to meet weekly for six sessions at a church hall in Merrimack. Both were gifted for their efforts.

Later, club member Dr. Julia Greenspan, of Amherst, presented a talk on Lyme disease, a constant hazard for beekeepers whose hives often are located in fields or wooded sites where ticks thrive. The specialist, owner of Greenhouse Naturopathic Medicine, is nationally renowned for her treatment of chronic Lyme with probiotics. Applause was intense.

More bee talk resumed. Accolades were shared for neighbors known to help honey bees by planting more flowers or installing meadow areas around their properties. Bees love weeds, all agreed, for weeds bear flowers that honey bees tap for pollen and nectar, and to make honey. Dandelions are filet mignon to a bee.

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