Mike McAvoy, an Athens resident and Professional Engineer, has an interesting side job: he is an avid beekeeper who maintains five different hives on his property. McAvoy is from Atlanta, Georgia where he grew up on a dairy farm and was first exposed to the practice of beekeeping by his father. His family kept bees both on the dairy farm and later at their home in a suburban neighborhood. McAvoy eventually moved to coastal Virginia where he continued to keep bees but often lost many due to military aircraft spraying for mosquitoes.
McAvoy and his family moved to Athens about six years ago, and keeping bees has been a struggle ever since. Many beekeepers, including those in Athens, often buy their bee packages from Georgia, but the quality has been dropping recently making it harder to have a successful season of beekeeping. Over half of these packages, to produce and maintain the hives, often do not make it through the following winter. McAvoy explains that many beekeepers end up losing their hives in only six to eight months. With the cost of beginning the practice of beekeeping reaching $350 and the increasing risks and losses involved, McAvoy suggests one is better off to “take that money and support a local honey grower.” There are many opportunities to do so through local farmers markets and stores that offer locally produced products. Buying from local honey growers will support their efforts to maintain honeybees and continue their important practice.
Take that money and support a local honey grower. “
For those who wish to take the risk of beekeeping in the area, Athens County Area Beekeeping Association offers mentoring and guidance throughout the process to anyone interested. There is also a club for any first or second year beekeepers to help them establish successful hives. McAvoy began mentoring new beekeepers this year through the association and is currently the ACABA website manager.
Though McAvoy recognizes that beekeeping today is much more difficult than it was when he was growing up in Georgia, he continues the practice because he recognizes the importance that these insects have to our livelihoods. He is hopeful as the bees seem to be acclimating to pests and changing temperatures, and those that are passionate about beekeeping continue to do so no matter what the odds. With bees producing over one-third of the foods we eat, people like McAvoy are greatly appreciated for their dedication to the practice and their resilience to its growing difficulties.
McAvoy’s Beekeeping Process