Landis Portraits: A Series About the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum - Bruce Kearns

By Nolan Marciniec

Bruce Kearns
Bruce Kearns

Bruce Kearns spends a lot of time just watching his bees going about their business in and out of the hive. “Very cool,” he said. For Bruce, beekeeping has been an enlightening, humbling, and rewarding experience.

Bruce admitted that he “stumbled” onto keeping bees while seeking to make his life more sustainable. Beekeeping somehow seemed part of a master plan, along with installing solar panels, driving an electric vehicle, and raising chickens. Bruce said that vegetable gardening is his next frontier. In the summer of 2019, Anne Frey asked him to work with her in maintaining the Arboretum’s two demonstration hives and to take over when she relocated from the area. Since then, he’s become the Arboretum’s beekeeper, inspecting hives, “supering up,” requeening, and performing a myriad of other tasks – and harvesting honey too. These efforts make possible the sale of Landis’ own honey at both the spring and fall plant sales.

Bee hives are a “natural fit” for Landis, Bruce said, since the Arboretum is all about nature. He pointed out that, although a non-native species, honeybees are essential for commercial agriculture in which maintained bee colonies serve as the primary pollinator of crops.

A videogame enthusiast, Bruce described himself as a “sciency guy.” After serving four years in the US Army, he earned a degree in Computer Science from SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica. He currently lives in Duanesburg with his wife, Brandy, and two children, Brandon, 12, and Blair, 7, and works as a software engineer for an Albany company. It’s no surprise that the science of beekeeping appealed to him as a “citizen scientist.”

Bruce hopes that the hives at the Arboretum raise awareness and an appreciation of the huge impact that these small insects have on the ecosystem. Beekeeping, he said, is not for everyone. It demands an investment of both time and money, and keeping bees healthy can sometimes be a frustrating task. He noted that most backyard beekeepers give up after three years. But he insisted that, for him, the investment has paid dividends many times over. “Once invested, I am invested,” he said. And bees, he quipped, are vastly more interesting than chickens. “There is always something to learn,” season to season, year after year: a constant challenge to problem solving. Besides, he said, he enjoys just “hanging with fellow beekeepers.”

Bruce has begun to explore the Arboretum beyond the bee yard. He’s taken his family to visit the site of the Great Oak and plans to hike the trails with them. He’s been impressed by the diversity of the plantings at Landis and by the environmental knowledge of director Fred Breglia. He’s looking forward to meeting other members of the Landis community.

Visitors to the Arboretum might spot a white jacketed, veiled person, smoker in hand, concentration focused on one of the hives in the bee yard down the hill from the Greenhouse. He’s doing his part, helping the bees do their part in keeping the balance in nature.

Spring 2024

Volume 42 , Number 1

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