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Wake Robin apiary

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SHELBURNE, Vt. - Despite concerns for a declining bee population, the residents at one local retirement community are busier than ever at their apiary -- and the payoff is a pure Made in Vermont product.

From maintaining miles of walking trails to making their own maple syrup, Wake Robin in Shelburne is not only a retirement community, it's also a green community. And perhaps one of the sweetest resident-run activities is the Bee Keeping Project.

Ninety year-old Bill Ross is the head bee keeper.

Reporter Gina Bullard: How many hives do you have?

Bill Ross: We have six hives with bees in them.

He came up with the idea for the Bee Project in 2009. "Keeps me out of mischief," Ross said.

Ross didn't think Wake Robin would go for the idea of thousands of bees flying around, but he got the thumbs up and now residents are the creatures biggest fans. "They all say how are the bees today, how are the bees.  Everyone at Wake Robin want to know how the bees are," Ross said.

Steve Mayer is new to Wake Robin and knew he wanted to be a part of this sweet activity.  "My wife passed away and I was alone for the first time in 40 years and I was looking for a place that had a community," he said.

There are four bee keepers in the group and several people who help with harvesting honey. "People are curious. They've been doing active things all their lives and when they move in here they're looking for something to do," Ross said.

Another resident, Mary Heher, started last year with the bees. "I think it's mighty interesting what those little fellows can do and can produce," Heher said.

Normally harvesting happens in September, but this year has been one to buzz about. "I think the weather had a lot to do with it," Ross said. "The best we've done in the past is 75 pounds total -- this year we expect to be over 100 pounds."

The honey is jarred and sold for $5 at the Wake Robin gift shop.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What's it like eating the honey you've produced with the help of these bees?

Bill Ross: Magic. Everybody says this is the best tasting honey they've ever had.

Group members get paid with a jar of Made in Vermont honey -- and the sweet satisfaction of continuing to be busy bees.


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