How sweet it is! Bees and biodiversity offer families such abundant rewards

At least three times a day, Grandpa and Grandma (that's us) taste the rewards of grandson Lane's venture into beekeeping and producing honey. The taste is more exquisite than any honey we've found online or from friends — and we've tasted some mighty fine honey!

 

Nov. 10, 2017   By Jerry Carlson — This story of abundance began last year when Lane, then 8 years old, started studying the wonders of honeybees. He examined multiple sources on how he'd manage a hive. Erik, Lane's father, researched and built a special type of hive to withstand winters at our latitude. The design is called a "Langstroth" and Erik added an extra half-inch of solid foam insulation outside the 2x12 exterior walls.

The family bought a "nucleus" colony, which is a queen plus several hundred bees and five frames. The colony got a solid start in 2016, and the bees' honey reserves remained undisturbed through the season.

By early summer 2017, the honeybee population had multiplied to fill the first hive, so Erik built another one. As the colony grows, some of the bees are working to fill frames in the second hive. Eventually, it's likely that a new swarm will inhabit that hive, which allows plenty of expansion room. The bee population increased dramatically this summer.

The bees had nearby feasts of nectar from the rows of flowers that Lane's brother is growing commercially all around our 20-acre "campus." A neighbor to the north was raising non-GMO alfalfa — another summer-long source of pollen and nectar.

I've read that the honey most healthful to you is that which is raised nearest to where you live. The apparent reason is that honey's legendary immune-system support is closely linked with whatever allergens are lurking in your immediate neighborhood. 

This fall, the first frames of honey from the original hive were ready for harvest. The photos here show how the family joined in to extract and process them. 

Lane smoked the bees to mask the pheromones which bees use for communication. It mimics a fire, so the bees instinctively rush to consume honey because they fear having to leave the hive. They also collect near the queen to protect her. In this state, bees seldom sting.

 

 

Lane and parents Erik and Jeanene lifted the honey-filled frames from the hive and carried them in for extraction. After harvesting the honey, the empty spaces were refilled with new, extra frames.

 

The honey-packed beeswax comb is scraped from the frame and piled on a flat sieve to drain.

The total harvest added up to about 60 pounds of delicious honey. Plus, beeswax — which they note is valuable for many purposes. More than 40 pounds of honey were left in the hive, which is an abundant supply for the colony to eat throughout the winter.

As part of Lane's third-grade English lessons, he wrote an illustrated summary of the steps involved in honey harvest. It's attached here as a one-page PDF.  So...at age 9, Lane is a "published author."