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Diggin’ Livin’ puts it on paper in new book

Iris Chinook
IVN Contributing Writer

The National Honey Board estimates that there are approximately 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers in the United States, with most being hobbyists tending less than 25 hives. Commercial enterprises are those that raise 300 or more bee colonies.
Local bee stewards Joy and Eric McEwen have been raising bees in the harsh conditions of the Illinois Valley for more than 20 years. They met, fell in love with each other -as well as bees in 2001 – a passion that has underscored their lives ever since. Underwhelmed with the “tried and true,” commercial treatments for various bee afflictions, such as predatory Varroa mites, colony collapse disorder and chalk brood, the McEwens experimented with alternative techniques of managing their hives without using toxic chemicals. They developed new strategies such as the art of rearing superior queens and utilizing natural methods to help form healthier hives.
Wanting to share their considerable experience and gained knowledge, the McEwens have just published “Raising Resilient Bees: Heritage Techniques to Mitigate Mites, Preserve Locally Adapted Genetics, and Grow Your Apiary.” For those thinking about getting a hive or two of their own, this volume offers sage, time-tested advice for beginners and dab hands alike. “The amount of time needed to provide basic care for a colony of bees is minimal, but developing the intuition necessary to provide excellent care takes a long time. Ideally you’ll never stop learning and improving, which is a big part of what makes agricultural stewardship of any kind so rewarding,” said Joy McEwen.
The book is a thoughtful guide not only to tending the bees but thinking of them in a wider context and respecting them as partners in homestead enterprises. It outlines the care and feeding of the bees, what they need to flourish, how to run an apiary as a business and offers insight into how bees operate in the world and the unique gifts they bring. It also provides fun facts to know and tell such as bees possessing “facial recognition and a memory of familiar faces.”
When asked for a comment on the years spent raising bees in the community and the process of writing a book, the McEwens said, “I guess we’d like to add that we’re very honored to live in such a beautiful place. As we share in our origins story in chapter one, we came from Corvallis 20 years ago in search of wildness – both in people and place. We found our home here in the Illinois River Valley with the most genuine and charismatic people, the most pristine water and delicious fresh air to breathe. We knew this would be a wonderful place to raise our bees and our family. We are very grateful to Chelsea Green Publishing for bee-lieving in us and sharing our story. We hope that if you pick up our book that you’ll learn a little more about us, and that it may bring you closer to the world of honey bees and the interconnected nature of all life and livin’.”