‘Bee fever’ keeps him buzzing with good health

Nov 16, 2021

Bees can cure ulcers.

Veteran beekeeper, 84-year-old Joseph Tardif, says that happened to him.

Tardif spoke at the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society Sunday, Nov. 14 about his hobby of nearly 60 years, which he credited with improving his health by providing a relaxing, engrossing pastime. 

He was working as a teacher and experiencing ulcers from stress when he was invited to a talk about beekeeping in the 1960s.

He was instantly hooked.

Tardif started keeping bees and was eventually able to stop taking his ulcer medication. Keeping bees, he said, “took care of it.’’ 

But before his ulcers could disappear, he had to make bees appear in his life. Not sure how to start as a beekeeper, he asked around and received some surprising advice.

Call the police.

The police, it turns out, keep lists of area beekeepers. They do that for a very practical reason: When bees swarm on neighboring properties, the residents often call police, who in turn contact area beekeepers to inquire if the swarms belong to them.

Sure enough, the police provided some names, Tardif reached out, and his beekeeping years began.

“I caught bee fever. I was just completely overwhelmed by the thought of bees,” he said. “I dreamed about bees. I did so much reading about bees.’’

But he had one problem at the start of his hobby: The bees were stinging him, painfully and frequently. 

He shared his concern with a fellow beekeeper.

“I asked the beekeeper, I’m doing something wrong. I’m getting stung, and it’s not pleasurable.’’ 

The beekeeper looked at Tardif, and had an instant response. 

“You walk fast, don’t you?’’ he asked.

He did, Tardif admitted. “Or at least I did then,’’ he said with a chuckle.

It turns out bees need to be aware of the keepers’ movements and be able to predict their next steps. When they can do that, the bees remain calm and unagitated.

That advice changed his life, he said.

“That was just what I needed, slowing down,’’ Tardif said. 

To this day, he enjoys watching his bees at work.

“Bees are very, very intelligent,’’ he said. “I respect them quite a lot.’’

Keeping bees has allowed him to develop a nice side business lending out his bees to orchards and cranberry bogs where the flying insects can pollinate the fruit.

His bees will occasionally swarm on a neighboring property. He advises residents who see such swarms to contact police who will in turn reach out to Tardif.

He will visit the property in question and take a closer look. At times, what people thought were swarms of bees proved to be a hornet’s nest.

But when actual bee swarms do make unwelcome visits, Tardif will coax them back into the hive.

He also does something he described as vital: He cuts down the entire branch where the swarm had gathered.

Otherwise, the scent will remain on the branch and bees could be drawn to swarm there again.

As it turns out, he said, “bees have a very good memory.’’