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Produce farmer benefits from bees

For local farmer Don Reese of Reese’s Farms in Scottsburg, using bee pollination services has helped tremendously with production of his crops.

Reese uses services from local beekeeper Jim Ziegler, and before him he used services from Gene Riddle, another local beekeeper.

“We would not be able to raise the vegetable crops we raise without pollination services like we’ve been getting. It’s not enough wild bees or natural pollinators to pollinate so we can have the produce we need to have, so we rely on beehives,” Reese said.

Reese has been using bee services since the 80s when he began growing his crops commercially.  

“We used to keep a few of our own bees, but it was too time consuming. The bees do better when they have somebody that does a good job taking care of them,” Reese said.

According Zeigler, Reese’s Farms was one of the leading producers when the Halifax Beekeeping Association was formed to provide pollination services for people.

The process of providing bee pollination services, Reese said, begins in early spring when he and Ziegler get together and discuss where his crops will be planted.

Reese said his farm is spread out as far as Mt. Laurel, so the bees have to be moved according to where he’s growing his crops each year.

Once the locations are decided, Ziegler waits until about an hour before it gets dark for the bees to go into their hive, and he closes them in with a screen wire and moves them either then or early the next morning before they become active again. 

The bees are then released to pollinate Reese’s crops.

Reese produces freshly grown produce and fruit such as beans, watermelons, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupes, strawberries, pumpkins and much more.

Most of the flowering crops benefit from pollination services, but he mainly uses the pollination services on his cantaloupes.

“If you don’t have bees there to pollinate your cantaloupe crop, then the blooms will drop and fall off if they don’t get pollinated, and you just won’t have any cantaloupes on the vine,” Reese said.

Pollination not only affects the quantity but the quality of the fruit as well, Ziegler added. 

The local beekeeper said bees touch on crops more than once, and the more they touch on the crop, it increases the total pollination of the crop. When a crop isn’t thoroughly pollinated, it can lead to shriveling. 

According to Zeigler, shriveled strawberries are sometimes due to lack of pollination. Better taste also comes with pollination because the more the plant is pollinated the more sugars it has.

 Zeigler said while farmers like Reese have benefited from pollination services, still some county farmers are reluctant to take advantage of these services, and he feels they are cutting themselves short. 

“It really does make a difference because over the years we had some fields, primarily pumpkins, and we didn’t put bees up there, and it was just not enough pumpkins on the vine,” Reese said. “I appreciate that there are beekeepers in the county like Jim, and Gene Riddle before him, that do this because it’s a service to us, and it would be a hardship to me if had to keep all the bees.”