Beeswax business gets federal boost
11/07/2001 - Scott Rapp - http://www.syracuse.com
Jon Ryan reached into a 4-foot-high colony of honeybees and pulled out a wood-frame honeycomb from one of several boxes stacked on top of each other.
Hundreds of buzzing worker bees clung to the comb like bats hanging from a ceiling. The bees were making and storing honey.
Ryan brushed his index finger across the backs of the purring insects, petting them as one would a cat.
"They really are pretty docile most of the time. Here, scrape your finger across the comb. That's where the honey is. ... Now you're supposed to lick your fingers," he smiled from beneath a helmet wrapped in meshing that covered his face and neck
The dark, sticky honey tasted as sweet as maple syrup.
The Cayuga County beekeeper knows the honey-making business like Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates knows how to make money. Ryan, 52, started producing honey for commercial markets shortly after he took a beekeeping course at Cornell University in the mid-1970s.
In late 1977, he paid $65,000 for the business, which included a three-story building for making honey and a 1974 Dodge truck that he still uses to haul equipment, honey and supplies. The building, called a "honey house," is at Burns and Long Hill roads in Venice.
"As a kid, I always thought it would be fun to have bees because I liked honey. I got a couple of hives after taking that course at Cornell, and before long the hobby got out of hand," said Ryan, who lives on Kenyon Road in Venice.
Last month, Ryan learned he had won a $1,250 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install equipment that will let him begin making dipped beeswax candles. He was one of only 28 grant-winners nationwide.
On a cool sunny day this week, Ryan was starting several new beehives by moving thousands of honeybees from a small cluster of colonies he tends off Booth Road in Venice, about 15 miles south of Auburn.
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