Backyard Beekeeping by Beginners at MOTHER EARTH NEWS

| 7/29/2011 8:50:45 AM

Tags: backyard beekeeping, beekeeping, beekeeping beginners, honey, honeycomb, local honey,

Bob and Cory are employees at Ogden Publications and beginner beekeepers who are swarming with enthusiasm.Backyard beekeepers begin honey seperation process 

Back in April 2011, MOTHER EARTH NEWS got together with generous companies to start our own hobby bee endeavor. Last week, we began reaping the reward of the hard work of thousands of bees living in two hives located on Cheryl Long’s (Editor-in-Chief, MOTHER EARTH NEWS) homestead in Kansas.

“I just love it. Been wanting to do bees for years and years and years,” says Bob Legault, director of sales at Ogden Publications. “When we started I said, ‘I’ve got the bee itch!’ I’m the grunt, and I don’t sit still long, so it works. I love it.”

With donated beekeeper suits and smokers from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, bees from BeeWeaver Apiaries, and a hive and other supplies from Mann Lake LTD and Rossman Apiaries, the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff has been the happy partner in a symbiotic relationship for three months and the rewards, of course, are double sided. Now at Cheryl’s, plants are pollinated naturally and honey is made to be used in the kitchen and to be given away to friends. Bob estimates now that he and Cory are watching over 60,000 honey bees at Cheryl’s homestead, only four miles away from Ogden headquarters. These bees inhabit one top bar hive and one traditional style hive.

Back at headquarters, Bob stands over his truck tailgate with a tray of carefully crafted wax combs infused with golden honey and speckled lightly with sleeping bees. Using his bare hands, Bob scraps the entire conglomerate of honey, comb and bees off of the tray and into a square of cheesecloth held over a regular kitchen bucket (clean of course). As employees gather around to watch the honey separation process begin, they nibble on pieces of comb to suck out the treat made with local nectar. When Bob’s hands are done with their work, he licks them clean. It is that simple.

The waxy, drippy combination is bundled up in the cheesecloth, tied and then left to hang for the rest of the day suspended over the bucket. At the end of one workday, most of the golden honey has collected into a sweet puddle, enough to fill eight Mason jars. This first try at hobby beekeeping has Bob and Cory pumped about future exploits.

Samantha Burns
7/30/2011 6:25:40 PM

As a long time reader of the Mother Earth News magazine and a big fan, I would like to respectfully disagree. As a beekeeper myself, and President of the Somerset Chapter of the Maine State Beekeepers' Assoc. I feel it is a better method to utilize an extractor to collect your honey--this leaves the precious comb to be re-used by your bees. By taking the comb WITH the honey, you will be forcing the bees to put valuable energy and resources into re-building the wax foundation. Sure an extractor is an expensive investment, but there are DIY instructions available on-line; also, many local chapters of bee-clubs offer free use of club-extractors to members. Furthermore, I think it would be prudent to point out, for new-beekeepers who may not realize, you should be very conscientious of how much honey you take from your colony the first year. You'll want to make sure to leave them plenty to last the up-coming winter. Still a nice article tho! Thanks!

7/29/2011 10:56:45 PM

i have just started with one hive, about 30,000 bees and i am anxious to see the results after a few months. i was not sure how we would harvest but your article has me thinking that it will not be as difficult as i imagined.

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