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Rohe is area’s go-to bee man

Dale Rohe outside one of his bee colonies in Harvest.

Dale Rohe is one of the few beekeepers in the Madison/Huntsville area.

He’s been a practicing beekeeper since 2001.

“I enjoy bees. I find them very therapeutic and calming,” Rohe said. “Sometimes, I go sit next to a hive and watch them come and go.”

Rohe works full time at DESE Research, Inc. as a senior analyst. His curiosity led him into the beekeeping profession one day while at work.

“I was sitting in my office and I just Googled beekeeping in North Alabama,” he said.

That night, he attended the Madison County Beekeepers Association meeting.

“I started off with just a couple of colonies, and more and more people were wanting more honey, so I started increasing number of the colonies and it kind of grew,” he said.

Today, he farms honey and sells it. He produced about a ton of honey last year.

With his honey collection, Rohe also makes candles, soap, lip balm and even furniture polish, which he sells out of his home business, Rohe Bee Ranch.

“I enjoy producing the honey products,” he said. “I donate a lot to church and other community activities. On a good year, it pays for itself, but after paying for the jars, labels and medication, you can go in the hole.”

He said at his level, the profession isn’t a big money maker, but it provides him with peace of mind.

“It’s just a very enjoyable hobby.”

Part of his beekeeping duties include ridding area residents of bee swarms.

Swarming is a natural way of dividing a bee colony. It’s where bees leave their home to settle a new one. The bees leave in one big group, which is called swarming.

Bees can swarm anywhere, even in backyards. Rohe makes free house calls to collect these swarms. He said swarms can stay anywhere from an hour to a few days. But he says not to worry because they aren’t out to harm, just looking for a new home.

“When I’m on a call, I just shake them into a hive and put a lid on,” he said. “Then I’ll take them to one of my bee yards.”

The bee yards today contain hives very different from what has been used for 2000 years.

Ancient and traditional beekeepers used skeps, a basket-shaped hive most people imagine when they think of a beehive. Today, modern beehives are called Langstroth hives, named after Dr Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth who invented the prototype. Langstroth wooden beehives hold numerous frames made of honeycombs.

An advantage of these new-style beehives, which have been used since the 1860s, is that the frames can be removed and examined for disease. It is also easier to extract honey this way. Skeps are now illegal in the United States because of the difficulty of being able to monitor diseases in colonies.

His next honey harvest will be in May. He harvests several times a year, in part because of one of the honeybee’s biggest threats, the small hive beetle.

“The beetles crawl around in the honeycomb and defecate, lay larva and they tunnel through the honeycombs eating everything,” he said. “It literally fouls up the entire colony to the point to where bees pack up and move.”

His next honey harvest will be in May. “This is very satisfying,” he said. “It’s very soothing and a lot of fun.”

To reach Rohe for honey products or tours, visit his website at Rohebeeranch.com.

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