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The Sweet Life

Cindy Hodges: urban master beekeeper

Bees, termites, and ants are all social, group-mind insects or “superorganisms,” says Emory alumna Cindy Ransom Lewis Hodges, but “honey bees are the only ones I love.”

Hodges, the only Eastern Apicultural Society Master Beekeeper from Georgia, is also vice president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. She has a small apiary in Decatur with about ten “baby nucs” (nucleus colonies) and hives, as well as bees in several locations and parks around Dunwoody and Dahlonega, for a total of twenty-seven colonies.

“Honeybees are vital to the sustainability of the food supply all the way down to the neighborhood garden,” Hodges says. “They are the only pollinator that ‘gives back’ with honey, wax, pollen, and propolis.” In fact, Hodges’s honey won best in show from the Georgia State Beekeepers Association last fall. “And that’s with urban honey!” she says.

Her hives include a research colony on a fifth-floor patio of Emory’s Math and Science Center that is used for foraging studies in the Department of Environmental Studies. “We took the bees up in the elevator,” she says, laughing. Her bees need regular tending: on a recent rainy spring day, she was planning to deliver a swarm hive (also known as a bait hive) to one of her existing hives. “In the spring, honeybees swarm, which is their form of colony reproduction and is actually a healthy sign, but as urban beekeepers we try to prevent it,” she says. Sometimes the bees will relocate to bait hives, which smell like old wax, when they are placed nearby. Hodges already has a taker for this bait hive if the bees do choose to form a new hive inside it.

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