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Dewittville beekeeper finds sweet rewards

September 2, 2017
By Charles Erickson - , Westfield Republican

DEWITTVILLE Dressed in his beekeeping suit and surrounded by hundreds of honeybees in flight, Clark Scriven recently told a visitor to keep his distance and wait for him in his shop. He would be up in a few minutes, he said, after he finished checking his hives and the bees began to leave him alone.

Scriven's Sugar Bush & Honey Farm operates from a small building at 6410 Beech Hill Road in the town of Chautauqua. It serves as both a processing facility for the honey, pollen and beeswax products sold by Scriven, and a retail store. As the beekeeper finished up at the hives, a few honeybees buzzed around inside the building. They were attracted by the scent of honey.

"Most of my customers come for health reasons," Scriven said later, after he had removed the protective suit. "I have a lot of people that depend on getting this product because they don't know where they could get it otherwise."

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When Clark Scriven began keeping bees in 1985 in Dewittville, he used a farm that had once belonged to one of his grandfathers. After a fire in 2003, he bought a house next door to the property and moved Scriven’s Sugar Bush & Honey Farm to 6410 Beech Hill Road.

Scriven began keeping bees in 1985, using what had been the farmstead of one of his grandfathers. It was next door to his present location, where Route 37 ends at the intersection of Route 58. After a fire in late 2003, he purchased an adjoining property, moved into the house and had the small building constructed for his shop and store.

He has 15 honeybee hives, or colonies, and each holds from 20,000 to 100,000 bees. They are kept down a small hill from the shop, and appear as stacks of boxes.

The process of creating honey begins when foraging worker bees collect nectar from flowers. The bees have two stomachs, and the nectar is carried in one of them.

"While it's in the bee's body it gets mixed with different enzymes," Scriven said. "And it's passed to another bee that will take into the hive and put it into the comb and the water in it gets evaporated off."

Every few weeks, Scriven pulls out sections of the hives known as the honey supers and brings them to the shop. The supers contain the frames in which the worker bees construct comb from wax, insert honey into the cells and then seal the cells with wax. Scriven first puts the frames into an uncapping machine.

"It is like a flail mower with chains," he said. "I put a frame in, drop it down between them and those chains take the cappings off both sides."

The wax is not thrown away. Instead, Scriven separates impurities from it and uses it as a base material in soaps, skin creams, vapor rubs, petroleum jellies and even candles.

"Beeswax is a natural moisturizer," he said. "It's very healing."

See BEES, Page A2

After using a rake-like tool to scratch open any cells missed by the uncapper, Scriven loads the frames into an extractor, a spinning apparatus which removes honey from the combs with centrifugal force.

"Mine is considered raw honey," Scriven said. "I don't heat it any more than 100 to 110 degrees, just to be able to filter it through a nylon cloth to take out the large particles."

The honey sold in most stores is heated to 200 degrees, according to Scriven, which allows processors to push it through fine filters and keeps the product from crystallizing. It gives the honey a long shelf life, but he feels it robs the food of various minerals and taste.

"So many people don't realize that when it crystallizes, it's still very good," Scriven said. He uses warm water to turn his crystallized honey back into a liquid.

Scriven, 57, retired from Belknap Business Forms in Mayville in 2010. He also reduced his stock of hives. In some years, he had kept 100 colonies. He's comfortable with the 15 he keeps now.

"This is just a hobby-type of thing," he said. "At one time, it was a much bigger scale and was bringing in extra income besides my regular job."

The bees kept by Scriven are from the Italian bee subspecies of the European honeybee.

"The Italians are good for me because I'm on the top of a hill," he said. "They start up slower in the spring. My winter's two weeks longer than it is in Westfield. They also tend to be more disease resistant."

Scriven's Sugar Bush & Honey Farm also sells honeybee pollen. Along with honey, the pollen is stored inside the hive and used as a food by the colony. Honeybees do not die during the winter, but form clusters around the queen in order to keep the hive warm enough to survive the cold weather.

"The pollen is very high protein and it's got all kinds of different vitamins," Scriven said. The pollen is retailed in clear plastic containers and appears as yellowish granules. "When bees go to a plant and collect the pollen, they mix it with a little bit of nectar and pack it into a pocket that's on their leg. They make it into a little dough."



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