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By Haley Disterhoft
Just west of Kane, a local resident has started a large operation with only one mission: rescuing bees. This past year, Tony Taul has been going around Jersey County rescuing rogue bee hives and relocating them to live safely on his farm. Locals have learned that if they have a bee problem, don’t spray the bees, just call Tony. Taul is fairly new to the beekeeping scene, but his passion for the insects is only growing.
“This is actually my first year of beekeeping, I kinda just have really blown up,” Taul said. “Justin Hill, from Jerseyville, he’s Hill’s Appliances and Hill’s Honey, he kinda got me started.”
He didn’t have much of an education on bees before but he’s learned quickly and has become quite the bee fanatic.
Taul has been a busy bee this past year; he’s relocated 19 swarms to his ever growing bee farm. Bees will outgrow their hives and will try to find a larger space to build a hive, which could be at a business or residence if the bees find a spot that suits their needs. Bees are incredibly intelligent, precise and mathematical when it comes to building hives.
“They break from their main hive, the queen takes half the hive and looks for a new home, if a hive is getting too big, or she feels threatened,” Taul said.
“So, obviously, rather than people coming in and spraying ‘em, we want to avoid that at all costs, so I come in and remove the bees and bring them back to my apiary and let them build up from there.”
Taul has become a go-to-rescuer because he’s found most people don’t seem to want to take on the job of handling bees.
“Not a lot of guys want to go and do cutouts, and for me, I mean free bees are free bees. I would rather catch bees than buy them from someone,” Taul said.
Taul added bees typically don’t want to sting, unless they are protecting honey.
Picking up stray bees has worked in Taul’s favor because he calls his bees “mutts” and having mixed breed bees has its perks.
“There’s different bloodlines just like, you know, cats and dogs have different types of bloodlines,” Taul said. “Bees are the same. There’s Russian bees, Italian bees, all different kinds of European bloodlines. When you get swarms, usually they’re just mixed in.”
Bees from a combination of different genetic backgrounds tend to be more resistant to disease.
Taul believes that protecting and helping bees is beneficial to everyone involved, from the bees to the environment to the farmers who live in surrounding areas. Taul didn’t necessarily start his hobby with this in mind, but he’s noticed changes in the environment around him.
“I know since I’ve started, just the little things. I’m not thinking on a huge level, it’s more of a selfish level, but since I’ve started having bees, I know my garden has been, you know, realistically probably quadrupled the production that I’ve ever had before,” Taul said.
He said his neighbors are even seeing more fruit on their trees.
Taul’s property is next to 400-500 acres of pollinator habitat, which is part of a government program.
“It’s kind of a no brainer for me too, you know. I mean you have these bees that need somewhere to go that need a home. Well, let’s bring them out here because this is the best home that they could have,” Taul said.
“If you have the area to do it, then you should do it. It’s never not going to benefit everybody around.”
When it comes to the question of selling honey, Taul has thought about it but for him, that’s not really his main goal.
“For me, it really started as a hobby. It’s an expensive hobby. So, obviously there’s some thought of selling honey and things like that, because there’s just an abundance of that,” Taul said.
For now, Taul is focusing on rescuing as just a hobby, although he just received a new honey extractor to share with his friends and family.
“Mainly, I just want to set it up for my daughter. She loves bees. She’s little bitty, she’s just two, but she’s named the farm. It’s gonna be Cici’s Honey Farm,” Taul said.