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Rolllin Hannan Harnesses Honeybee Power
Beekeepers maintain an essential agricultural link

Rollie Hannan caught his first swarm of bees when he was 15. Today he manages more than 400 bee colonies that are home to about 3 million busy bees. Hannan's bees make honey and pollinate plants for farmers in Connecticut and eastern New York.

Hannan's Honey is available at many of the orchards that his bees helped to make fruitful, as well as at many farm stores statewide.

Rollin Hannan
Hannan's Honey, Southbury

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Honeybees are angels of agriculture

A lot of people call honeybees the angels of agriculture. Theyíre not really known for how much they do, but theyíre the link that connects all agriculture.

The honeybees pollinate 90 crops throughout the United States. In Connecticut, we pollinate apples, blueberries, pears, squashes, and most of time a lot of the farm stands have bees there for various other things. They do everything that most people donít see. I mean, bees have an impact even on milk production. The farmer buys alfalfa and clover seed. Bees are used to pollinate, to make the seed. So itís a tie-in with everything.

Iíll explain it this way. If you have a dinner plate and you take one third of the food off it, thatís what the bees pollinated. I donít care what it is, the volume of food is what the bees do. If we did not have bees, we would have one third less food surplus in the United States.

Growing To Love Bees and Growing a Business

I grew up on a small farm in Southbury.  We had animals, cows and sheep, and I was fascinated by them. But it wasnít my calling in life. One of my dadís friends had a couple colonies of bees. I caught a swarm when I was 15 or 16 years old, and I fell in love with it.  I kept studying more and got really involved.

So, 16 years later I have more than 400 colonies all over Connecticut and Eastern New York. In the summertime, there are 50,000 to 70,000 bees in a full-size colony, so weíre probably talking 2.5 million to 3 million bees that I own. But I do this part time. My real passion is to try to take my bee business from 400 to 1,000 colonies and make a full-time living at it.

I just bought a house six months ago on land weíve used for 20 years. Itís a house that was built in 1765 Ė and old barn. And I bought five acres. The Southbury Land Trust has been buying a lot of land, production or farmland, in town and keeping it open. They bought the rest of the farm, and I have life-use of that and can put bees on their property.

Beekeepers donít need a lot of land. Because you canít have all those colonies in one spot, we spread them out all over the place. We need holding yards, and a lot of the farmers let us put bees on their property.

My business is sort of two businesses in one. I run my bees both for honey production and pollination. I pollinate a lot of the major orchards in the state as a service to them. We can gain a little more. Maybe thereís enough for 600 or 700 hives just on rentals, dealing with the big growers.

On the honey side, sometimes youíll make honey on pollination, sometimes you wonít. Itís really where the business is geared. Doing pollination youíre not going to make as much honey as you would for just raising bees for honey production. Itís a different style of bee management.  But itís kind of nice, because most of my orchards sell my honey at their stands so you get some income that way. And if one yearís better than another, you have something to fall back on.

Copyright 2008 SimonPure Productions, LLC

Working the Land: The Story of Connecticut Agriculture
is a Co-Production of
SimonPure Productions and Connecticut Humanities Council

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