Tim Cerniglia Jr. is the founder and Chief Beekeeping Officer of BeeKind Farms. Since launching the business in 2014, Tim has managed apiaries in Connecticut, Westchester, Long Island and New York City, which produce raw, hyper local, traceable honey. BeeKind farms performs a wide range of beekeeping services for farmers, landowners, restaurants, and other beekeepers. Tim’s passion for sharing his knowledge, and his commitment to educating the next generation about ecology and food has lead him to promote the use of hive products through education.
When did you become interested in beekeeping and why?
Working as a contractor in Connecticut, I was asked to set up an apiary and bring in a beekeeper to manage colonies of bees. I had a passion for traceable food and responsible land management, so after a little research, I decided to learn, to become the beekeeper.
Did you learn the art of beekeeping from someone?
I am continuously learning the art and science of beekeeping. My most influential personal mentors, turned friends, have been Andrew Coté, Sarah Red-Laird and Norm Coté.
What kind of hives do you use and why?
I use Langstroth hives. Langstroth hives are the most commonly used and the most useful and efficient to manage honey bee health. The hive bodies house sturdy, removable frames where bees build brood comb and the beekeeper can easily inspect and make adjustments, treatments, etc., to keep the colony strong. These frames are also easily replaceable, as they should be over time. Langstroth hives are very adjustable and allow for vertical expansion to accommodate a growing population of bees, which for the same reason also makes its ideal for honey production. I love the opportunity to use observation hives when I can. They attract a lot of attention, are very engaging and so they're great for education. We make custom and very large observation hives that are fully functional for bees to live in throughout the entire season.
What kind of bees do you keep?
I've kept mostly Italian honey bees. I've been replacing queens lately with those of the Minnesota hygienic line, developed by the University of Minnesota. This line has been bred to resist two brood diseases, as well as having a genetic resistance to the very problematic Varroa mite. Genetic resistance simply means lower mite counts in colonies, not mite free colonies. I also keep a few Carniolan colonies. They all have slightly different characteristics that I'm still observing.
Tell us your favorite swarm story!
I enjoy watching and collecting swarms, as long as they aren't from my own hives. I work hard to grow my bee populations while keeping them from swarming by providing adequate ventilation and adding room to the hive as needed. I maintain for large healthy colonies which tend to produce a lot of honey in the right conditions. It is a pretty satisfying accomplishment to catch a swarm and walk away with a few pounds of bees, but it's a mistake to try to install them back into the hive where they swarmed from. It's ideal when a swarm can be relocated successfully. The New York City Beekeepers Association has really been doing a great job of that.
What's your favorite way to use honey?
There is nothing like tasting honey directly from the hive, fresh and warm. I enjoy using honey in cocktails, dressings, and in my cooking. Every way that I can.
Which honey week event are you looking forward to most?
I’m looking forward to seeing the "Kids and bees" program on the boardwalk at the Honey Fest. I believe it’s very important to inspire children to think about food and where their food comes from. This is a great way to inspire young people to be modern farmers.
Have you visited other apiaries? If so, which was your favorite?
Absolutely, I visit other apiaries often. In NYC with the New York City Beekeepers Association, we see many interesting and creative urban apiaries. My favorite, aesthetically, is in a brick walled cemetery next to a Catholic Church in Nolita.
What's your favorite bee product besides honey? What do you do with it (if applicable)?
BeeKind Farms' mission is to promote all products of the hive. Honey and wax are my two favorites. I love having beeswax candles at the dinner table.
What part of the hive's operations do you find most fascinating, brutal, and/or beautiful?
There are few things as fascinating and beautiful to watch as a hive entrance of a healthy bee colony in June. The cooperative nature of eusocial colonies is really interesting when you realize that their behaviors are intrinsic. Watching foraging bees return, weighed down with resources, clumsily navigating their way into the hive entrance, while other foragers shoot out of the hive to return to the field with such enthusiastic velocity. There may also be younger bees navigating around the front of the hive for the first time in preparation for longer trips and on the outside of the hive may be workers regulating the temperature of the hive by fanning from the exterior.
If you were a bee, what caste of bee would you be?
I'd definitely be a worker, bee. A worker bee takes on a few different labor roles dependent upon the needs of the hive and the bee's age. If I were a worker bee, I'd most likely enjoy foraging, inadvertently pollinating as I purposefully overstuff my corbiculae with pollen to bring back to store in the hive. I'd also take great pride in building brood comb, I'm sure.