Backyard Beekeeping by Beginners at MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Reader Contribution by Natalie Schaefer
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Bob and Cory are employees at Ogden Publications and beginner beekeepers who are swarming with enthusiasm.

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.

“The more you get into it, the more you want,” says Cory Clutter, account executive at Ogden Publications. “Two hives are definitely not enough.”

If Bob is the “grunt,” Cory is the initiator of the operation. It all began when Hank Will, editor-in-chief of our sister publication GRIT Magazine, and Cheryl got together to discuss the benefits of top bar hives. Cory worked hand-in-hand with beekeeping companies for GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey that followed. His interest was sparked and he began collecting information not just for the Guide but also for himself. As Cory talked to sponsors for advertisements he also started talking about sponsoring Ogden’s own beekeeping project. Not long afterward, 40,000 buzzing bees arrived at the office in boxes ready to start a new home here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

“We kinda got juiced about bees,” says Bob. After the hard work so far, the end result is sweet.

If you would like to try your hand at beekeeping, explore these sites for information, proper equipment and bees of your own! The following are the companies whose generosity helped us to get started.  

BeeWeaver Apiaries

Rossman Apiaries

Brushy Mountain Bee Farm

Mann Lake LTD

To stay updated with information from fellow beekeepers, stay tuned to our Honeybees and Beekeeping blog. Also, to find out more about the beginning of our exploit, read MOTHER EARTH NEWS starts Beekeeping. Check out DIY Top Bar Hive to learn more about different hive possibilities for your backyard.

Natalie Mae Schaefer is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .

Photographs by Natalie Schaefer 

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