By Beth Christian Broschart
The Parsons Advocate
PARSONS – The workers were busy as bees on Friday at Mountain State Honey Company, extracting honey and getting it ready to package for sale all over the Mountain State. Owner Paul Poling said the business is not producing as much honey as usual this year because
“This is one in seven to 10 years in which there is a freeze or something and you do not get the typical honey crops,” Paul Poling said. “So instead of making our major honey crops, we are making honey from flowers and plants.”
Paul Poling said there was a day in April when the temperature went down to 11 degrees and when the buds on the trees begin to swell, they are tender and susceptible to the frost.
Paul and wife Alisa started off with just one hive, and in 1989 they received a business license.
“When we got our license, we had about 30 colonies,” he said. “Now we have about 1,000 colonies. Our most popular honey comes from tulip poplar and basswood trees.”
Paul Poling said before he got into the private business of bees, he worked for the Department of Agriculture with bees.
“I saw a great potential,” he said. “I could never see the demand for honey being met in West Virginia in my lifetime because of the varieties we grow.”
Paul Poling said he and his wife got into bee keeping and honey production before the bad times. “By bad times I am referring to the mites. Then it became really important that you watch the bees and learn how to control the mites.”
He said the mites became resistant to the controls very early. “It’s still a big challenge, but I really enjoy the challenge. My wife and I both enjoy the business.”
The Mountain State Honey Company offers the area both full time and seasonal employment. “It has the potential to just grow and grow. The demand for pollination over on the Eastern Shore is overwhelming as is the demand in California.”
Paul Poling said he does take some of his bee colonies to California in February to help pollinate the California almonds. “We have a few in Delaware and a few in Maryland. There are roughly about 600 colonies over there and we have 1,000 hives here in West Virginia.”
Alisha Poling and daughter Natalie Dennis showed how they take the boxes with the honey and scrape the wax. The boxes are then put into a machine that spins the honey from the box and then it is strained into barrels, then bottled and labeled to be sold.
Alisha Poling said the honey from Mountain State Honey Company is available for sale and can be purchased in Parsons at Gifts to Go, Shop ‘n Save and Propst Grocery, in Davis at Bright Morning Inn, Canaan Valley Resort, Blackwater Falls State Park Trading Post, Wild Ginger & Spice and the Potomac Highlands Food and Farm, in Elkins at Crazy Harry’s Country Market, the American Mountain Theater and Wild and Wonderful Antiques and Uniques, in Snowshoe at the WV Market, in Buckhannon at Whimsical Treasures and Wendlings Food Service Store and at Tamarack in Beckley. Other locations are listed on their website.
The Mountain State Honey Company bees are not only great at making honey, they are also stars. Paul Poling said some of his bees were used to make an Ocean Spray commercial.
“They called the commercial swarm, some of which were really cool,” Paul Poling said. “It’s really hard to put bees and actors together, so we did the blue screen thing. We had bee suits for everyone and I kept the bees calm using a queen bank. Everyone had protective clothing on and nobody got stung.”
Paul Poling has photos of the two actors in the Ocean Spray commercials, Henry Strozier and Justin Hagan, with himself in his office. He also has signed bee caps from them.
Additional information about Mountain State Honey Company is available online at www.mtnstatehoney.com or by calling 304-478-4004. Mountain State Honey Company is located at 334 Pennsylvania Ave. in Parsons.