MEET SETH BELSON…
His well kept, modest Cherry Hill home is deceptive, according to Seth Belson. Like the similar houses to its left and right, it hides more than an acre of back yard. Hence the name "Hidden Acre Honey," for the side business stemming from his avocation. A lawyer for the New Jersey Public Defenders Office since 1991, Belson has also been a beekeeper for the past two years. Through Hidden Acre Honey, he sells honey, of course, plus bee removal, swarm removal and pollination services. But money has never been the object, according to the president of the South Jersey Beekeepers Association.
"Colony Collapse Disorder," for which there is no explanation, has caused large numbers of bees to disappear. "Reading about bees dying and how important they are, I decided that I'd do something about it as soon as I got the space," he said.
True to his word, Belson downloaded a how-to guide from the Internet, found a local beekeeper and bought a hive shortly after settling into his current home. Now, with a course or two on beekeeping under his belt, he boasts 18 hives and about a halfmillion bees (including the occupants of a hive that fell off a truck on the New Jersey Turnpike last month).
"Honeybees are really useful," says Belson, a font of bee information, and a lecturer in local elementary schools. Their venom is used to produce antibiotics and antiseptics. "Bees provide one out of every three bites of food we consume. They're called "nature's fertilizer" because they pollinate and increase productivity.
His own garden and fruit trees offer proof.
Each year, the apple trees on his property that produced a handful of apples in the pre-bee era now yields hundreds of pounds of apples. He also credits his bees for harvests of several hundred pounds of cucumbers a year, 20 to 30 pounds of red and black raspberries from each bush, and bumper crops of collards, squash, herbs, onions and borage— a green, leafy herb with pretty blue flowers.
Bees are about the only creatures he knows that literally work themselves to death, according to Belson. Queen bees, who lay up to 3,000 eggs a day, live an average of three-five years. But workers last only three-five weeks because they wear their wings off. "It takes two million flowers and 55,000 miles of flying to make one pound of honey," he said.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is giving scholarships for people to become beekeepers, and Belson recommends applying for one. "Beekeeping is enjoyable and cathartic," he said. "It makes me feel good because I'm making the world green." .