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Local beekeepers to meet closer to home

DACULA — For a couple of years, Rob Alexander and Tommy Bailey have been driving to Watkinsville on the first Monday of every month for the Eastern Piedmont Beekeepers Association meeting.

The meeting, held at the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Lab, has been the closest one to Gwinnett, but some complained it was too far to drive.

So Alexander and Bailey decided to start having meetings in Gwinnett — not to take members away from the Eastern Piedmont Beekeepers Association but to provide people who don’t want to drive to Watkinsville with an option.

The first meeting of the Beekeepers Club in Gwinnett will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula. Meetings will take place on the second Tuesday of each month at the church in modular building A, Alexander said.

“It’s not for beekeepers only. It’s for anyone with an interest in honeybees,” Alexander said. “We’ll share what we know and learn what we don’t.”

Alexander, an Auburn resident, has been raising honey bees for a couple of years and has about 40 hives on properties in Auburn and Bethlehem.

Bailey has been involved with bees his whole life — his father had bees. The Dacula resident has about 50 hives on a couple of farms in Dacula.

Alexander said there are a few reasons people have hives. Some are raised on farms or near gardens, so the bees can pollinate the fruits and vegetables. Some people just think bees are neat.

And others — like Alexander and Bailey — are “sideliners,” people who have several hives but aren’t professionals. Alexander said from time to time he “robs” honey from his hives and sells them at farmers markets.

The main purpose of the club will be to educate people about honey bees, Alexander said. If someone is interested in having a hive, Alexander suggests they first attend a beekeepers meeting.

“Since (the bee population is) declining so rapidly, if we don’t get the numbers back up, it’s going to do a real number to the food supply,” Alexander said.

Alexander and Bailey plan to attend the Honeybee Festival on Saturday at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center to tell people about the new club. They’ll also have a booth at the Gwinnett County Fair.

In a few months, the club will elect officers, Alexander said.