Local beekeepers mourn the loss of their friend and mentor
When master beekeeper, James Polk, gave A.J. and Janett Cancella their first beehive, he bet them that they would return it to him in a week.Well, Mr. Polk lost that bet and the Cancellas have turned that one beehive into a thriving business.
At 93, Mr. Polk died rather unexpectedly, leaving his precious honeybees in the hands of the Cancellas. “We learned everything we know about bees from Mr. Polk. I still talk to him as I am tending to the bees. I know he is still here with me,” said Janett, as tears welled up in her eyes.
Standing in Polk’s backyard in Norco, Janett was surrounded by busy bees. Thousands of bees constantly going in and out hives, getting water from a little puddle on the concrete floor of the porch and feeding on some nearby cumquat trees. “They are planning to sell this place soon. I will miss coming over here and tending to the bees. Mr. Polk and I were very close. He used to say he would rather have my help than the help of 10 men,”said Janett as she reflected on her past experiences with the master beekeeper. “He taught me everything I know about bees. He taught me to not be afraid of them and appreciate their role in nature,” she went on to say.
The Cancellas, residents of New Sarpy, have a backyard that is also home to thousands of bees. They have more than 30 hives at their residence and together with Polk’s hives, they produce 200-400 gallons of honey a year. “We try to save bees. We discourage using pesticides to get rid of a bee problem,” said Janett. In addition to honey, the bees are very useful for pollinating plants and vegetables and boosting production in crops and gardens.
Bee pollen is known to be a natural defense against allergies and has been studied by researchers for cancer cures. “Bees are thriving this year,” said Cancella, adding, “I have tremendous respect for bees. It is fascinating to see the bees at work. They are a strong team.”
A queen bee can live 4 to 5 years but worker bees live a little over a month. Unwanted beehives occur when bees swarm to find a nesting place for the queen. A queen can mate with about 7 male bees for 3 seconds and be fertilized for the rest of her life. With bees so productive and steadfast, they can quickly cause problems for residents but for the Cancellas, it is a chance to save and gather more bees.
The Cancellas also make house calls. They go out to the site, capture the hive and transport the bees to a safer location where they can continue their work. “We spin all the honey here on Mr. Polk’s property,” The Cancellas hope that their bees will continue to be a thriving business. “It would be a lovely tribute to a man that taught us the value of honeybees,” said Janett.
Many local residents are familiar with the work the Cancellas do for the bees. They sell their honey at the German Coast Farmer’s Market and in local establishments. The beekeepers also do school and day camp demonstrations with the bees in hopes of passing on a respect and value for the bees onto eager little minds.
If you are interested in having the Cancellas remove hives from your home or business, do a demonstration, or purchase honey contact A.J. and Janett Cancella at 504-451-8091.