Coffee Pot Cellars in Cutchogue hosted its harvest party Sunday, a common scene at many wineries across the North Fork this time of year.
But instead of wine club members popping bottles of Meritage and celebrating the 2015 vintage being in the tanks, the guests were checking on the recently spun cocoons of hundreds of young mason bees.
Veronica Kaliski, who has a home on Arshamomaque Pond in Southold, was particularly delighted to learn that the 60 bees she started with last spring have produced 189 babies, who will awaken from hibernation after spending the winter in her refrigerator’s crisper.
“Look at this,” she said gleefully. “We’ve got bees.”
Beekeeper Laura Klahre, who owns artisanal honey company Blossom Meadow and whose husband, Adam Suprenant, is Coffee Pot’s winemaker/owner, has guided half a dozen fledgling bee ranchers through the process. The ranchers set up nesting blocks in their yards last spring and provided the prolific little workers with mud and water to plug up the cavities where they would lay eggs. The bees die after just 35 days, but their pupa live on until the following year.
“These bees were fully developed in September,” Klahre said, pointing to the scores of chrysalides that were carefully cleaned before being stored for the winter. “They spun the cocoon around themselves in the last month. They are still living creatures.”
The mason bee, Klahre says, can pollinate much more efficiently than the popular honeybee and requires much less care. In fact, you can hear Klahre taking the honeybee down a peg in a TED Talk that will be posted online within the coming weeks.
“These guys are the true heroes,” Klahre said of the pollinating powerhouses. “This is the future for pollination across the United States.”
As Colony Collapse Disorder continues to affect hives worldwide, ranching helps ensure the highest survival rates for the tiny insects.
And for the novice ranchers, the project requires little start-up expense — about $130 — and even less time.
“We got a little house. You provide mud and water. Then they hatched and flew around,” Kaliski said. “It didn’t require us to do anything and it makes the world a better place.”
And then there is the added benefit of feeling connected to nature.
“When you first put them out you, can actually hear them eating through their cocoons,” said bee rancher Dave Triebig of Mastic. “It’s like, wow, I’m responsible for life.”
To become a bee rancher, contact Klahre at [email protected] or visit the Coffee Pot Cellars tasting room at 31855 Main Road in Cutchogue.