Protecting the Queen
After a lifetime of working, including a daily commute from Ripley to Charleston, it could have been the time for Zelma Boggess to relax when she retired in 2003. She and Frank had raised their family on 2 acres and while they had nut trees, and berries and fruit trees, they never got involved in farming to the extent that Zelma had experienced as a child growing up.
She started gardening more, but she was focusing on her flowers when she learned more about Purple Martins and how they had been socialized to depend on people to provide structures for their nests. In fact, Zelma learned that the Purple Martin population had declined in West Virginia and she and Frank started building habitat, both the houses and the kinds of flowers and other plants that attract the insects the birds feed on.
To provide more Purple Martin habitats, Zelma and Frank have encouraged involvement with local 4H groups to install houses at West Virginia Welcome Centers along the interstate highways. The project has extended to bluebird housing as well.
As she learned more about the need for habitat for the birds, Zelma noticed how honey bees had disappeared from her yard. She researched and found out about the mites and the environmental issues that put the honey bees at risk. Wondering what she could do, she researched more and ended up establishing the Mountain State Queen Producers. Together with other active beekeepers in West Virginia, Zelma and Frank’s efforts to improve the genetics of the local queen bees are beginning to help turn around the problem.
While many consumers enjoy honey for its sweetening properties, a growing market exists for alternative medical uses. Propolis, part of what bees gather from tree resins, is the reason why honey has a natural antibiotic in it. There are components in honey that aid in healing wounds and in the treatment of allergies, burns, sore throats, and more. There is some evidence that bee stings have helped reduce issues with arthritis and MS. While Zelma does not get involved in marketing any of these aspects, she and Frank have experienced improvement with allergies and arthritis and she attributes her good health to one or more tablespoons of raw honey each day.
Zelma and Frank Boggess