What's the buzz?
If it's coming from inside your walls, you might have an
infestation problem. But if they're honeybees, don't call an
exterminator. Call a beekeeper.
Wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and their ilk are a nuisance
you just want to lose. But a honeybee infestation is an
opportunity for your local apiary. Apiary is the fancy name
for a place with beehives where bees are raised for their
honey. They can turn your headache into a wide range of sweet,
You might think honeybees have always been native to
Central Jersey. In reality, there were no honeybees in the
United States until the European colonists brought them over
to produce honey in the early 1600s.
Jean-Claude and Beatrice Tassot of Tassot Apiaries in
Califon, also brought their beekeeping talents over to America
from continental Europe.
Since the age of 5, Jean-Claude had kept bees in the French
countryside with his granduncle. Years later, when he moved to
the more urbane environs of Paris, Jean-Claude put his apiary
talents on a shelf.
In 1997, wife Beatrice's job with Lucent Technologies in
France sent her to Central Jersey for a three-year assignment.
When a permanent position opened up, she seized it. Once
comfortable in New Jersey, Jean-Claude decided it would be fun
to start up a hive to teach his son, Archibald, as his
granduncle taught him.
"Our first hive harvested 75 pounds of honey," Bea said.
"We didn't know what to do with all that honey, so we visited
a nearby farm stand owned by farmer Carl Burd. We asked if he
would sell our spare honey on consignment. He agreed, and he
sold out 40 pounds of honey in only four days."
The Tassots decided this was a sign to get serious about
the bee business. From that original hive in their front yard,
Tassot Apiaries now operate more than 100 honey-producing bee
colonies around Hunterdon County.
An empty house, or even your house, can be an attractive
place for a transplanted colony. The space between beams of a
house is perfect anchors for the honeycomb, and the walls keep
the bees warm and safe. In addition, it doesn't take much for
bees to find their way in.
"Bees can enter a house through a hole the size of a
quarter," Jean-Claude said. "Once inside, the bees might go up
or down in the walls. The colony gets to about 95 degrees, so
you can tell exactly where they are by feeling for warmth
along the walls. This way you don't have to rip up all the
walls to find them."
Finding the infestation is the easy part. Transporting
nearly 75,000 active honeybees safely from an infestation site
to a new hive without losing too many valuable bees takes a
lot of ingenuity.
Jean-Claude built a specialized wooden vacuum box and hose
system that gently sucks up all the bees from inside the house
walls. Once taken to their new location, he opens up the boxes
and lets them fly. To make sure the bees stick around, he has
to be sure to get the queen with the group. If not, he will
have to supply a queen himself.
"Once we get a new queen, we clip her wing," Jean-Claude
said. "Queen bees are very valuable, so we don't want them to
It all starts with the queen. A good queen can lay up to
2,000 eggs in each 24-hour period. She lays eggs in each
six-sided honeycomb cell. If the cells are large, they will
become larger male drones. Smaller cells will become female
If you don't move a queen with an infestation, the
beekeeper can trick an existing queen into laying new queen
eggs by using specially fabricated egg cells in a frame. When
they hatch, he separates the queens into their new colonies.
Alternatively, he can buy queens through the mail from
"Our mailman is used to it now," Bea said. "He used to get
very nervous when he first brought us boxes with loud buzzing
Jean-Claude and Bea are active in the New Jersey Beekeepers
Association (NJBA). In fact, Bea is the president of the local
northwest New Jersey chapter.
"This year we personally took care of maybe six home
infestations," Jean-Claude said. "But the NJBA gets 50 or 60 a
year. They try to educate people that if they find an
infestation, don't kill the honeybees. The bees get rid of
other pests, and are good for pollination and honey. You don't
want to kill them."
"We ask them to keep a local beekeeper's phone number
handy," Bea said. "That way, they can recommend to the
homeowner to call us instead. We work with a lot of local
parks to watch for colonies that need to be moved."
In addition to the knowledge that you saved the lives of
thousands of hard-working honeybees, you will probably save
yourself a lot of money over the cost of extermination.
"We only charge for expenses to clean up the infestation,"
Jean-Claude said. "But we get to keep all the bees to start
The tall structures we think of as beehives are mixed-use
developments of a sort. The lower boxes stay in place
year-round. That's where the bees actually live.
"The bottom two boxes in a hive are just for the bees,"
Each winter, Jean-Claude builds wooden boxes and paints
them with code numbers to keep track of where each box belongs
in the field. These boxes are used to add more hives to their
"In spring, we put the shallow boxes on top," he said.
"That is where we harvest the honey."
When the honey-filled frames are ready for harvesting,
Jean-Claude brings the boxes into the shed. Here, he uses a
heated metal tool to melt and scrape the wax tops off the
honeycomb cells. Next, the frames go into the extractor.
That's a large metal tub that spins the frames to separate the
honey from the comb. It's a simple centrifuge device.
Honey pours out the bottom, and the wax and other
impurities are strained. From here, the honey goes into a
special dispensing machine that measures the honey into glass
jars or the familiar plastic honey bears for sale.
The Tassots still have only a half-dozen hives in their own
yard, but they operate more than a hundred hives scattered at
farms throughout the county.
Tassot Apiaries offers prize-winning items, including pure
clear honey, creamy honey, beeswax candles, and more. Tassot's
goods can be found on their Web site, and at many retail
locations in the area.
Jean-Claude and Bea even make a special honey wine known as
mead, or melomel, when flavored with cherry, blueberry or
orange. However, that's only for family and friends. Retail
selling of wine requires special alcohol licenses.
Aside from the honey products, Tassot distributes a broad
range of colorful Marat tablecloths, napkins and fabrics from
their original home in Provence, France. They can even arrange
custom work as required.
from the Courier News website