Honey of a hobby

A legacy lives on from the late Jim Hirni, a Hollis beekeeper and member of the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association who lost his life to brain cancer in 2017.

Hirni established before his death the Jim Hirni Beekeeping Scholarship Award, a gift of bees, complete beehive setups, equipment and supplies valued at more than a thousand dollars. The award is intended to promote beekeeping among young people.

The strength of an essay submitted to an MVBA committee is the criteria for victory. This year’s winner is Abigail Sliwa, a 17-year-old from Nashua who already has established a bee colony at the Hollis property of Michael Bergeron, fellow farmer and beekeeper.

“I want to thank Michael for mentoring me and letting me have bees on his property, along with everyone involved in the award,” Sliwa said. “They are helping me extend my beekeeping skills and adding to my supplies.”

Allen Lindahl, owner of Hillside Beekeeping Supplies in Merrimack, and club associate Alden Marshall, owner of B-Line Apiaries in Hudson, supplied the goods to fulfill the scholarship, now carried forward by members of the MVBA to commemorate Jim Hirni.

Sliwa was presented on May 24 with the bulk of her winnings. She receives two complete hive setups, tools and other supplies, plus a year’s membership in the MVBA, a group of around 150 enthusiasts. She also will receive a double supply of bees – at least 20,000 worker bees and two queen bees.

The MVBA hosts meetings most months at 6:30 p.m. on the first Saturday at St. James United Methodist Church, on Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack. The recipient’s proud father, Mike Sliwa, accompanied her to the award presentation.

“Abi” Sliwa said she is an avid farmer and has frequently worked on livestock farms that also had multiple bee hives. She advises newcomers to go into the venture without fear.

“One of the hardest things to do is to be unafraid of getting stung by your bees,” said Sliwa. “Bees are more docile than you think and after getting used to your bees, they also start to get used to you.”

Sliwa said she is looking forward to harvesting the honey but also to helping the industrious insects, the only species that makes honey among hundreds of regional varieties of the insect.

“Bees are a crucial part of our world,” said Sliwa. “Bees pollinate our crops and plants, and without them we would lose many crops that we rely on for food.”

The prize winner said she always has been a proponent of conservation. She is an advocate of wildlife, agriculture and apiculture – the science of beekeeping.

“The opportunity to have bees has allowed me to continue to help the environment, said Sliwa.”When I open my hive and look at my bees, it’s a bit intimidating but I know they are working hard for all of us.”

Information on the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association is available online: MVbee.org.

Submitted by MVBA