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Md. Inmates Harvest Honey, Learn Beekeeping

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) -- John Anderson said he doesn't mind getting stung by honey bees to earn a whopping $2 per day.

The 32-year-old inmate at Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown works as a beekeeper at the prison under the tutelage of two correctional officers who are masters of the craft.

On Tuesday, Anderson helped those correctional officers -- Lt. Jeff Golden and Cpl. Chuck Neikirk -- harvest the inaugural batch of honey from two of the prison's upstart bee colonies.

"The only thing bad about beekeeping is the suit," Anderson said. "It gets pretty hot in there. Other than that, I can't find anything negative to say about it."

Golden said the University of Maryland gave the prison about 200,000 bees last year to launch the program.

"Our main goal is to train inmates to maybe become beekeepers when they get out of prison," Golden said.

The other goal is to help increase the honey bee population, which has been devastated by pesticides on plants and weeds, he said.

Neikirk said they only drew honey from two of the prison's four hives because about half of the bees presumably died of starvation last winter.

The two full-strength hives produce about four or five gallons of honey per harvest.

Neikirk said the prison only harvests the honey once a year so the bees have enough food left over to last the winter.

He said the honey that was produced on Tuesday will be consumed by the prison staff. In the future, officials intend to give the honey to local food banks.

Anderson and James Jones are the only two inmates at the prison who were chosen for the program from a group of volunteers.

Although Jones couldn't participate on Tuesday, Anderson said he plans to continue beekeeping when he gets released in about eight years after finishing his sentence on burglary and theft convictions.

"I want to teach it to my son," he said. "Maybe I'll turn it into a business."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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