Do you have a question about bees, anything, really? Because Sky Meadows State Park volunteers Doug and Ramona Morris have been married nearly half a century and know a thing or two about birds, and well, especially bees!
Doug and Ramona Morris at Sky Meadows State Park with the bees
Our January 2015 Volunteers of the Month are Doug and Ramona Morris from Sky Meadows State Park. They have been beekeeping volunteers at Sky Meadows State Park since 2009, and when it comes to knowledge on bees – they have it!
“Park Manager Tim Skinner came to our bee club looking for volunteers to set up an apiary in the park,” said Doug Morris, the volunteer of the month for January 2015.
Skinner was also looking for someone to provide beekeeping demonstrations for two-hours once a month from April to October.
Doug and his wife Ramona got started in beekeeping 11 years ago when, “a swarm decided to overwinter in our house,” said Doug.
So while the bees decided to wait out the winter season in their roof’s soffit, Doug and Ramona took classes to learn how to get rid of them. But instead, they ended up buying a couple of colonies because beekeeping sounded like a fascinating subject. Who would of thought?
“It gets more interesting the more you learn,” said Doug.
The couple built the hive bodies and frames to hold the wax combs for the park's apiary. Sky Meadows State Park owns the bees, the hives, and all the necessary equipment, and the Morris’ provide the labor and beekeeping management.
The hive bodies at Sky Meadows State Park
“We started the apiary with two colonies or hives and increased to four to five most years,” said Doug. “During the fall to spring period we build any new hive bodies and frames that might be necessary, later in the year we treat for pests, we install new colonies, and feed them until the nectar flow starts.”
Filled honeycombs at Sky Meadows State Park
Something I found interested – The nectar flow begins in May and ends in July. Doug and Ramona take some of the honey but leave each hive with 60 to 70 pounds for winter storage. So what do they do with the honey they take?
“We put the honey into jars, the park rangers put on the labels, and the honey is sold in the park’s shop” said Doug.
(And a purchase I must make next time I am at Sky Meadows).
Installing the new bees
One of the favorite programs Doug and Ramona do is on National Honey Bee Day in August.
“Ramona and I have the most fun when we give a demonstration of honey extraction,” said Doug. “Park visitors get right up to the screen tent and watch how the wax cappings on the honeycombs are removed to release the honey.”
Using a hand-cranked honey extractor honey is literally thrown against the tank walls and eventually flows down into a bucket. Samples are provided. Yum! What a great educational tool.
Over the years the apiary site has been improved with the help of the park rangers and staff at Sky Meadows State Park.
Working with the bees
“Our next project is to work with the park to provide more bee-friendly plants for pollen and nectar production lasting from spring to fall,” said Doug.
This is truly a husband and wife team! Ramona is from Oklahoma and Doug – well – he grew up in Scotland.
“We have been married 49 years this June and are still good friends,” said Doug.
Doug and Ramona have lived in Ontario Canada, Kansas and California. He says they’ll stay in Virginia. Doug retired from electrical engineering and Ramona is semi-retired as an antique tribal arts dealer.
“Beekeeping provides a welcome change,” said Doug.
Virginia State Parks' loves our volunteers; we could not do what we do without you!
If you would like to learn more about volunteering at a park near youclick here.