The sweet life of an Adirondack apiarist
“I’m interested in genetics and developing a breeding program,” she says. Bee husbandry, like its mammalian counterpart, is used to encourage favorable traits—in the bees’ case, things like gentleness, honey production or resistance to the varroa mite. The latter, along with other parasites, viruses and pesticides, is one of the major threats to honey bees, a European import brought to North America in the 17th century and used for pollination in modern agriculture.
Braman grew up in Stony Creek, where her family had one of the first sawmills in the state, and graduated from Bolton Central School, where her mother works in food service. Her interest in bees led her to approach Dick Crawford, who High Peaks shoppers know as the man with the waggling antennae headband at the Keene Farmers’ Market, about how she could learn more about beekeeping. He invited her to join the Champlain Valley Bee Association, a club for professional and hobbyist beekeepers with members from Lake George to Quebec.
Since 2017 Braman has split her time between the Adirondacks, where she spends winters on ski patrol at Whiteface, and St. Albans, Vermont, where she works at French Hill Apiaries with well-known beekeeper Mike Palmer.
The Adirondack hives are Braman’s personal project. She visits them every week or two, depending on the time of year. In early spring she may feed them simple syrup if their stores are depleted. As the season progresses, she’ll reverse the nine frames in the box, or give them more space to encourage a good honey crop. She collects the honey in late summer or early fall, making sure to leave them plenty for themselves—though she still feels a twinge of guilt. “I know that I wouldn’t like it if someone took my honey,” she says.
The tools of the trade include a hat with a net veil and a smoker filled with dried sumac flowers or hay. The smoke confuses the bees’ ability to communicate through pheromones, making them more docile.
Before trading her veil for a toque each winter, Braman wraps the hive box in foam and tarpaper to keep it warm. The bees will spend the cold season inside, clustered together, eating their stores and leaving only to relieve themselves on the occasional warm day. “They’re very sanitary,” she says.
In spite of her protective gear, Braman says getting stung is a daily occurrence. “It never hurts less. It’s mind over matter.”