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Local bee keeper removes large hive from downtown Estacada

Elbert Lowry will use hive to produce fresh honey
by: Jeff Spiegel, Elbert Lowry (left) and Dave Kitchen prepare to remove a bee hive that was occupying the back of Prokop's TV building.

Of all the animals and insects that cover the earth, the bee might be one of the most polarizing.

On the one hand, bees are obviously the nemesis of the many people they sting each year. On the other hand, they provide a delicacy some people can't imagine life without - honey.

For local resident Elbert Lowry, however, bees have become a way of life.

Born in Canada, Lowry, 70, grew up in Hazel Dell, Wash., and traveled all over the Northwest while following logging camps. When his children were beginning school, Lowry settled down in between Estacada and Colton, where he lives today.

His fascination with bees began 20 years ago when his son Trevor asked for an unusual birthday present - a hive of bees.

'I gave him an article about honey bees since I was eating about a gallon and a half of honey back then, and he read the article and decided he'd like a hive,' Lowry said. 'So he and I went to three classes on how to keep bees and I bought him a hive and protective suit.

'I became so interested in them myself, though, that I bought myself the veil and everything too.'

Just two months after getting the hive, however, Trevor was called out of town for work, leaving Lowry in charge of the bees. By the end of the year, he had grown his collection to 40 colonies.

As his hobby continued to expand, Lowry also purchased some land above Molalla where he keeps even more colonies. In total, he estimates that he has about 60-70 colonies, each with about 50,000 bees in them.

With a love for bees continuing to grow, Lowry's fascination with bees began to include the study of apitherapy, the medical use of honeybee products.

'Bee pollen is absolutely the best food a man can eat,' he said. 'It's a very healing food, really good for allergies and asthma, good for your heart.'

In addition to bee pollen, bee venom is also believed to have healing powers within apitherapy.

'I get stung quite often, maybe four or five times every time I work the bees,' he said. 'If I don't get stung, I'll put a few on myself anyways because they're good for you anyways.

'It's much bigger in China, Russia and Europe and is really good for arthritis.'

While many people may be a bit put off by Lowry's love of bees, the services that his hobby allows him to provide are extremely popular.

For one, Lowry produces fresh honey from each of his colonies, which he sells out of his house.

'I usually make about 3,000 pounds of honey in a year,' he said. 'There is a big variation between colonies, but one colony might average 200 pounds a year.'

The honey he sells is $12 for a quart and can be found by following the 'Honey' sign that is eight miles outside of town on Highway 211, south of Estacada.

The second service that Lowry provides, which helps him create honey, is one that was on display last week in downtown Estacada.

When Prokop's TV Sales and Service, located at 402 S.E. Main St., realized that a large hive of bees had taken up residence inside of his building, he called Lowry.

'People told me to kill them, but I said, 'No, they're honeybees,' ' Carl Prokop said.

So as Lowry, his wife, Margie, and their colleague, Dave Kitchen, headed to Main Street, they prepared for battle with the bees.

Well, it wasn't much of a battle.

When they arrived, after they had taken the panel off the back of the building and exposed the large hive, they got to work in removing the honeycomb piece by piece.

The comb was then placed in boxes designed for collecting honey, with each slab placed on its own board. Each box held about 10 pieces of honeycomb.

After an hour, Lowry and his team had removed the entire hive and relocated it into two boxes, which began attracting the bees. While they were finished at 4 p.m., they left the boxes undisturbed until 9 p.m. in the hope of attracting all of the colony members who were out collecting pollen.

Lowry estimated there were 20,000 additional bees out collecting pollen that would return to the boxes at night. He said that as long as the queen bee had gone into one of the boxes, the remaining bees would all follow her inside.

At 9 p.m., Lowry returned to find just a small group of bees occupying the building where the hive had been, and after scooping them into the boxes, the colony was relocated to his house.

'I would guess it had been there about a month and a half,' he said. 'That was a pretty good-sized hive.'

So with 50,000 bees relocated out of downtown Estacada, everyone was a winner at the end of the day. Lowry had a new colony to produce honey and the folks of Estacada didn't have to worry about a dangerous bee swarm taking flight.




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