Great Lakes Production Lab
Jerry Dunbar demonstrates nearly every facet of beekeeping in this video. Beginning with the bare basics of bee biology, the queen bee usually lives around two years. The queen is the core of the hive. She is the rock star. Without her there is no hive. Worker bees generally live a few weeks in the summer. In the winter they may live a few months. Drones (males) live until they mate or until winter comes and they are kicked out into the cold to die. They don’t get much respect. They’re only around for one purpose. Jerry estimates there were around fifty thousand bees in one of his hives.
We are shown some of the methods for managing bees without saying ouch (or something worse, depending on your disposition) too much. One old trick is smoke, which apparently mellows out the bees so they are less likely to sting. We’re talking just normal wood smoke, not tobacco or certain weeds. Someone has probably thought of experimenting with that but Jerry doesn’t go into it here.
He shows us some of the details of constructing a hive, including how to add features that make it easy to extract the honey without disrupting the business of the bees. He uses something called a “hive jacker.” During the winter one can wrap the hive with black paper which absorbs heat and keeps the hive a little warmer.
Part II details how to make various products from the hive. Honey is the obvious one and probably most popular but there are other options. Mead is a kind of wine made from fermented honey. Mr. Dunbar gives the formula of five gallons of water, about fifteen pounds of honey, a cup of pollen, and some yeast. The mix is fermented at seventy degrees and then stored in a cool dark place until it stops bubbling. Then it is bottled and ready for your next party.
You can also have honey straws at that party. Honey straws are exactly what they sound like— straws full of honey. Apparently that packaging technique is popular enough to bring in up to five times as much honey money per pound as from a plain old jar of the stuff.
If you cut yourself at the party or develop a cough afterwards, some anti-viral, anti-bacterial propolis tincture is another hive product that could come in handy. You can also make lip balm from a combination of beeswax, propolis and coconut oil.
I still don’t know where the term “bee’s knees” comes from and it may not be all the buzz, but this video rates a thumbs UP.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2013.