Hahn Nursery, Pittsburgh, PA
Two beehives and their resident honeymakers are giving customers at Hahn Nursery the idea to bring the sustainable lifestyle trend of beekeeping to their own backyards. The hives found a home behind the garden center’s fruit tree greenhouse after Manager Laurie Curl offered the space to the master beekeeper who taught a Penn State Extension class she attended. That beekeeper, Stephen Repasky, relocated two of his colonies to Hahn’s property in spring 2012 - and they’ve attracted customers’ attention ever since.
Before the garden center could make a long-term commitment to house the hives, the management had to be sure the employees were comfortable and that the bees weren’t going to attack customers. “We didn’t hear feedback that it was a problem or anyone had concerns,” says Curl. “People are interested, and it really goes hand-in-hand with the fact that we have mostly organic products.”
Hahn’s staff members share the basics of beekeeping with customers and refer them to the Penn State classes when they want to learn more. “Having the beehives is an excellent educational tool,” says Curl. “We get a lot of questions about beekeeping.”
Repasky comes a couple times each month to check on the colonies and harvest honey. The garden center was looking into selling the honey, but a hiccup occurred when the first two colonies it housed died in the fall of 2012. “We haven’t been able to discern what went wrong. It wasn’t our area,” says Curl, who notes the replacement colonies are now doing “very well.”
She says the area behind the garden center is an ideal spot for the bees because it’s near an ample food source and a pond nearby supplies them with water. In turn, the bees pollinate the garden center’s fruit trees for sale, which, in the first year of having the bees, yielded up to three times the amount of fruit.