WEIRTON - Honey can be used for many purposes and produced all over the world, including right in our own back yard.
On Wednesday, members of the Rotary Club of Weirton heard from one local honey producer about his experiences raising honey bees and the production of the natural sweetener.
Ron Hirkala, of New Cumberland, produces Herk's Honey, which can be found at a handful of area stores.
HIVE EXPLAINED — Ron Hirkala, of New Cumberland, discusses some of his work raising bees for the production of honey during Wednesday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Weirton at Williams Country Club. Hirkala sells Herk’s Honey through a handful of local stores. -- Craig Howell
He explained, many times, when honey is found on supermarket shelves, it is mass produced and includes syrup, water or other fillers. It can be produced in other parts of the United States or as far away as China.
"When you buy local honey, it's pure honey," Hirkala said.
Hirkala explained he currently has only one hive, although he has operated more than 50 at one point, noting honey producers have been facing increasing difficulty because of a reduction in the honey bee population.
"Honey bees aren't doing well," he said. "There's a massive die off."
He pointed to the use of pesticides on plants, as well as infestations of hives by mites and hive beetles as among the issues affecting the bees.
For Herk's Honey, Hirkala usually harvests from his hive twice a year - in June or July and in October or November.
He said he will get a different type of honey depending on the time of year as a result of different types of flowers in bloom.
In other business, club members discussed making contributions to relief efforts for the tornado victims in Oklahoma.
A tribute also was read in memory of former Rotarian William Duvall, who died May 15.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)