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Month in the Hive – July

 

Summer is prime bee season! Michigan bees have been foraging on all the blossoming flowers and trees, including sumac, milkweed, basswood and clover, in order to create a robust nectar flow.

Now that we’re in July, West Michigan bees are busy making honey in their hives. For beekeepers, there isn’t a need to be constantly digging around in the hive unless you’re managing swarm prevention. Be patient if you see a swarm as they usually disband, often within about 15 minutes or an hour.

During July’s hot and humid days, you may notice bees resting outside of the hive. This is completely normal as this is their way of keeping cool.

Throughout the month of July, continue weekly hive inspections, looking for the queen, and checking on the overall health of the hive.

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Why The Metropolitan calls Great Lakes Bee Co. honey ‘delicious’ honey and beeswax candles a ‘rich experience’

 

The Metropolitan, a publication based in Detroit, featured Great Lakes Bee Company’s Hasselman’s Honey and beeswax candles in its June 2024 article, “What do you get by mixing, honey, hot sauce and fried chicken?”

Here’s why The Metropolitan’s staff called our honey “delicious” and the aroma and glow of our beeswax candles a “rich experience.”

The Metropolitan: What do you get by mixing, honey, hot sauce and fried chicken?

Hasselman’s Honey (and, beeswax candles) | Fremont, MI

Since 1974. 100% Local Western Michigan, Unprocessed, Raw & Unfiltered.

Last month, we sent contributing crack storyteller, Jamiel Dado to the west side of Michigan to see what he could dig up on the bee community and those products associated with what the Empire called, Apis mellifera. In his article, “Beeing There,” for The Metropolitan, Jamiel wrote about his journey to Kropscott Farm Environmental Center and observations and discussions from our bee class.

While his experience can be found in the previous link, we’d like to discuss a couple of the products coming out of Great Lakes Bee Company.

It says right on the bottle that Hasselman’s Honey comes straight from the hive, with all the benefits natural honey has to offer. While there is rigorous debate over the health benefits associated with honey – natural sugar vs processed, local honey vs global, etc. – those who keep bees are confident that locally produced, raw, unprocessed honey not only tastes great but provides a myriad of benefits to better living (myriad, a word I do not use in daily conversation but thought it worked given the previous Latin).

We spoon this robust honey on our homemade bread and toast, in our bowl of Whole Milk Greek Yogurt w/ berries, and stir it in our afternoon teas.

Delicious!

Had I been with Jamiel, I might have asked Hasselman what makes the flavor of their honey unique? What flowers contribute to its taste? Does Lake Michigan have anything to do with the end product? How do we safely and ethically support bee communities into producing their finest product? And, how should bees be compensated for their work?

But, alas, I was not there.

Apart from Hasselman’s Honey, we have also been writing by beeswax candlelight for the past 30 days and must say, it has produced a much richer experience – we enjoy the aroma and its soft, flickering, glow!

Hasselman’s small batch honey comes from the Western Shores of Michigan and is hand bottled in Fremont, Michigan, by the Great Lakes Bee Company.

 

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Month in the Hive – March

 

Spring has officially sprung in West Michigan! As the snow disappears and temperatures become a bit warmer, it’s time to get out and check on your hives more regularly.

In early spring, it’s common for colonies to die of starvation. However, if you’ve fed your bees with plenty of sugar syrup in the fall, they should be okay. Bees need more food during this time of year for brood rearing, but can’t forage just yet. That’s why it’s important to check their food stores when the weather is mild. We recommend hives have at least three or four combs full of honey to get them through the next couple of months until nectar and pollen are available and accessible outside. If there isn’t any sealed honey in the top frames, you may need to begin some emergency feeding. You can use dry sugar, fondant, or a candy board, or replace empty combs with combs of capped honey.

Keep in mind when feeding, we recommend keeping the frames intact, and just peeking under the cover. The bees’ proximity to their food source is key. If the cluster is far to one side of the food, you can carefully move it closer, keeping it together while you do so, or move frames of honey closer.

With the days growing longer, the queen steadily increases her rate of egg laying as well. More brood means more food consumed. The drones begin to appear, and bees will continue to consume honey stores. Feeding protein patties is an optional practice to ensure that bees have access to protein for brood rearing. Generally, bees will slowly begin to forage for pollen when the weather is dry and warm. Pollen provides much-needed protein for larval development. But when they can’t forage due to cold and wet weather, protein patties serve as a great source of protein and cover for periods when the colony continues to raise brood. Beekeepers can choose to feed protein patties throughout the spring or choose to monitor weather conditions and the pollen intake into the hive to ensure their bees are getting the necessary protein they need.

Next up: Preparing and planning for the upcoming season!

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Month in the Hive – February

 

Are you getting into bees and confused by all of the hubbub about queens or “breeds” of bees? Well, it is easy to say it doesn’t matter and bees are bees. But that doesn’t really answer the question. One thing we need to remember is that when someone is selling Italian bees, Carniolan Bees, or Russian bees, they are selling bees based on traits and characteristics more than genetics. These traits have been selected for years in breeding programs to accentuate characteristics found in the namesake populations. Much like cultivar groups of brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi are the same species of cruciferous, but express different traits due to selective breeding.

When someone is selling Italian queens or bees, they are selling bees that tend to develop large clusters. With the large clusters, Italians tend to produce ample honey crops. Also, they are fairly gentle bees that show little aggression toward the beekeepers’ missteps. The large clusters can be a blessing or a hindrance going into winter. Bees huddle together to keep warm in the winter, so more the merrier, right? Well, with all of those mouths to feed they need more resources in the cold winters and spring that follows. A well-stocked Italian hive will survive winter and spring, but if the pollen and nectar fail to materialize, Italians will burn through resources to be ready for an eventual flow. This can lead to starvation in a delayed spring if the beekeeper does not keep an eye on them. As far as physical traits, Italian bees tend to be blond in color with brown to black stripes. Italian queens tend to be blond to light orange/amber with occasional brown to black markings.

Carniolan queens and bees, on the other hand, winter in smaller clusters. This is great for conserving resources, but can lead to excessive die off in exceptionally cold winters. They do develop strong clusters in the spring, but unlike Italians they will pull back brood rearing if resources become scarce. Carniolan bees are one of the gentlest bee varieties you’ll find. The bees tend to be orange/amber to black with black stripes, while the queens range from a dark orange or brown to black.

The last common variety of honey bee is the Russian. Russians are an interesting mix. They winter with good sized clusters and produce good honey crops. They have been shown to carry lighter mite loads and have lower tolerance for mite presents. So, what is the downside to Russian bees? Well, they are a bit more aggressive than Italians or Carniolans, and tend to swarm more. Some will say that more aggressive bees will produce more honey, but in our experience aggression does not correlate to honey production. The tendency to swarm helps with mites by introducing brood breaks. The coloring of Russian bees would fall about in the middle of Italians and Carniolans, while the Russian queens tend to be blond to orange/amber in color and often have brown to black stripes.

Finally, you may have heard of bee brands like Beeweaver, Saskatraz, and Ankle Biters. These brands have meticulously bred bees to focus on traits the breeder finds attractive. Each and every brand will tell you in detail what they focus on, but in general they focus on mite resistance, gentleness, and honey production. You may come across Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) and VSH stock is the fruit of breeding programs that select breeding stock based on the tests that evaluate hygienic behavior. Hygienic behavior for bees is seen in uncapping, recapping, and removal behavior of brood that is not “normal” or healthy. This behavior translates to fewer mites in the hive and a less hospitable environment for mites to reproduce.

Where does this leave you for selecting the type of bees? Personally, we recommend new beekeepers start off with Carniolans or Italians. This is because of their gentleness and they are a bit more forgiving of “newbees” mistakes. After several years, once the newbee has become a proficient beekeeper, then one might bring in stock with traits they want to introduce into their apiary.

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Benefits of dark chocolate and rose

 

Did you know our infused honey not only tastes good, but has certain health benefits too? Let’s have a closer look at our Rose and Dutch Chocolate infused honeys.

Yes, our Rose-infused honey makes a Brie cheese spread spectacular and is a savory addition to tea, yogurt, ice cream and your morning pancakes. BUT rose is also known for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, which can increase dopamine and help with anxiety and depression. Rose is also helpful in sickness and cancer prevention, especially breast or cervical cancer, and helps reduce inflammation, pain, and menstrual cramping. Think about that extra punch of antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin E the next time you pour rose honey in your afternoon tea.

Now, our Dutch Chocolate-infused honey – that is something that satisfies our sweet tooth AND our body’s natural “feel good” chemical, serotonin. Have you ever taken a bite of dark chocolate and felt instant happiness? That instant joy and satisfaction comes from an increase in serotonin due to the chemical make-up of tryptophan (amino acid that helps make serotonin), phenylethylalanine (natural anti-depressant), and theobromine (mood relaxer and stress reliever) – all of which are found in dark chocolate.

Additionally, the flavanols in dark chocolate are also known to help with cardiovascular disease and improve metabolic health, which can lead to lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and alleviating diabetes. Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants, which can enhance insulin secretion, improve insulin sensitivity, prevent inflammation, and create a fat-lowering effect. It is also rich in nutrients, including fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Go ahead and pour our Dutch Chocolate infused honey on, well, anything, and get a dose of sweetness while also packing in some nutrients.

Don’t have our Rose or Dutch Chocolate honeys? Check out our varying sizes of infused honey here.

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Looking for a last-minute holiday gift? Why bees and beekeeping classes make great gifts for the holidays or any occasion

 

Great Lakes Bee Company Owner Genji Leclair and General Manager Stefan Braun talked with FOX 17 Morning Mix and WOOD TV8 about how bees can make the perfect last-minute holiday gift.

“Bees are fascinating,” Leclair told FOX 17. “They’re important and have such a contribution to farming, agriculture, our food supply and they’re fun to take care of.”

Braun, who admits to being fascinated by any “creepy crawlies,” told FOX 17: “Bees carry a special place for me. I’ve been around them since I was a little kid. Once I became an adult, I dove in head first and learned everything there is to know about bees and want to continue learning about them.”

Leclair shared that if you’re thinking about giving the gift of bees for any occasion, there are some things to take into consideration, Leclair and Braun said.

“To take care of a domesticated animal – that is the honey bee – that’s something that can’t be taken lightly,” said Braun. “It is a chore and it is a job – and I love doing it.”

“When giving bees as a gift you want to make sure the person you’re giving it to – it’s like giving a puppy or any kind of animal – that they’re up for the challenge and the long-term commitment,” said Leclair. “A lot people think bees, because they’re wild insects, you can put them in their hive and they’ll be okay. But that’s not the case. In choosing a gift like this for someone, you want to make sure that this is something that they’re up for and would be committed to.

“You also want to make sure that they’re not allergic to bees,” Leclair added. “Bees do sting and some people are allergic, so you want to take that into consideration as well. Other than that, there’s some ongoing costs. Just like taking a dog to the vet and getting those vaccines, there’s care for the hive as well because there are different things that can happen in the hive – you might have to replace your queen, you have to treat the hive for certain things. Other than that, it’s fascinating and it’s so fun and amazing to be in the bee world.”

Great Lakes Bee Co. also wants to help beekeepers – new and experienced – with their bees. They’re offering beekeeping classes on March 9 and March 23. Classes are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are $50. Online registration is open.

“It’s a beginner bee class that will tell people how to prepare their location for the bees, how to maintain their bees, what kind of elements to look for in their bees and, of course, the most important part, how to harvest their honey; and how to make it a relationship between the beekeeper and the hive,” said Braun.

“A lot of times when people want to start beekeeping, they don’t know exactly what they need to have to start beekeeping, so we thought it would be a good option to allow people to purchase their bees, their hives and all the accessories they’ll need to go with it,” Braun told WOOD TV8. “It’s really handy for newbie beekeepers to know what they need to start out.”

“When I moved to Michigan and started to get into bees, I had no idea where to start,” Leclair said during her interview with WOOD TV8. “I just knew I loved honey and wanted to do something great for the environment. A lot of people just don’t know a lot about the importance of bees, what they do for the environment, how they impact the local ecology around their areas, the agriculture and their own garden. Beekeeping is one way you can really support your local farmer or even your own local grower, and also get some honey.

“Having access to information and someone who can mentor and demonstrate what it’s like to interact with the bees, how to set up a bee hive, how to protect yourself when you’re working with bees and some of the ins and outs of beekeeping is a great way to start your adventure in beekeeping, and have a little confidence in going into getting your bees started,” she added.

What’s Leclair’s favorite part about bees: Honey

“We have local, raw, unfiltered, unprocessed honey – it’s so healthy for you and it tastes so good,” she said. “Anytime you can get local, raw unprocessed honey do it from your local beekeepers. In addition to that, the hive has a lot of great byproducts like beeswax, and honeycomb and infused honey.”

Honey bees, honey and bee products and swag are available on the Great Lakes Bee Co. website. Beekeeping equipment will be available for purchase on the website in January 2024.

Watch both segments here:

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Month in the Hive – September

 

September is one of our favorite months to celebrate! Why? It’s National Honey Month!

Our West Michigan bees have been busy little workers making honey in their hives the past four months. As bees begin to wind down their harvest in September to prepare for the upcoming winter, beekeepers can collect any remaining honey from their final honey flows.

As we celebrate our buzzing bees, here are a few facts about honey and National Honey Month:

  • The National Honey Board declared September as National Honey Month in 1989 to promote the beekeeping industry in the United States and, honey, of course.
  • Honey is known as one of “Mother Nature’s sweeteners” because of its natural properties and health benefits, including boosting energy, healing ailments and moisturizing your skin, not to mention its delicious taste.
  • Honey has been around for millions of years with beekeeping apiculture dating back to at least 700 BC with the Ancient Egyptians.
  • A single worker honeybee produces approximately 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. That means around 22,700 bees are needed to fill a single jar of honey, according to the National Honey Board.
  • The flavor and color of honey varies depending on the types of flowers the bees visit. Honey color ranges from nearly colorless to dark brown, and its flavor varies from mild to bold. Generally, light-colored honey is milder in taste and dark-colored honey tends to have a more robust flavor.

How to get the most out of your end-of-season honey collection:

  • Harvest your honey when the hive is full of capped honey – or when a cell is completely covered in white wax and honey is not visible. In Michigan, this can happen anytime in September through the first frost – usually in early October.
  • Begin your honey harvest by clearing the honeybees off of the frames, then scraping the wax capping from the top of the honeycomb. Once the wax has been removed, you are ready to extract the honey.
  • Use a a honey extractor, if you have one, to get the honey out of the comb and into a jar. This helps to preserve the comb so the bees can still use it and fill it back up with honey.
  • If you don’t have a honey extractor, common household items, such as a wooden spoon or potato masher, can be used to crush and drain the comb in a clean bucket. Then strain it through a colander or smaller kitchen strainer.

Enjoy your honey harvest one spoonful at a time! Happy Honey Month!

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Watch GLBC’s Genji Leclair make a Honey Bloody Mary on Good Day Northern Michigan

As the holiday season continues with parties and get-togethers with family and friends, Great Lakes Bee Co. Owner Genji Leclair shares how you can use honey to create a Honey Bloody Mary that’s packed with nutrients to kick any holiday hangovers or enjoy on National Bloody Mary Day, which happens to be Jan. 1, 2023 – New Year’s Day.

In a recent Good Day Northern Michigan on 9&10 News segment, Leclair also explained how honey could be considered a miracle food.

“Honey is a special sugar,” Leclair said during her live interview with GDNM on Dec. 16. “It’s very healthy for your body to absorb honey – there’s antimicrobial properties that create tryptophan (an essential amino acid that is necessary for making proteins) that help you calm down – and it’s quick to get to your brain.”

Leclair explained how a honey’s yellowy golden hue comes from the pollen on the plants the bees are foraging. For those living in West Michigan who are allergic to pollen, consuming trace amounts of the region’s honey helps build up immunity to the area’s pollen and will help with allergies.

“Bloody marys are on par with honey for me because they’re healthy and they solve a health problem: hangovers,” said Leclair. “When you have a hangover, blood sugar in your brain starts to deplete, which is what starts a hangover. It’s almost like inducing jet lag – you can’t sleep, you don’t feel good, and some people even get dizzy.”

In order to cure a hangover, you want to put nutrients back in your body, but the most important thing is putting sugar back in your brain, according to Leclair.

“A lot of people will do alcohol again because you’re literally putting sugar back in your system – and that’s where the alcohol comes in. If you’re not into alcohol, virgin bloody marys are a very healthy drink and by adding a honey to your bloody mary, you’re getting that sugar without the alcohol – but you can always double down and do it together.”

For the demonstration, Leclair used a dollop of Great Lakes Bee Co.’s infused Black Pepper Honey and mixed it in with her bloody mary concoction.

“I think this is the perfect thing to do for New Year’s Day because on New Year’s Eve, you’re out drinking all night and there’s a good chance you might not feel great on New Year’s morning,” said Leclair. “This is a perfect thing to put out for a New Year’s morning breakfast or brunch. But this is a very healthy drink – without the alcohol, of course – because you’re getting a lot of vitamins in your system.

“There’s a wide variety of bloody mary recipes, so go online and have some fun checking them out.”

How to make a Honey Bloody Mary

Start out with the basics:

  • Tomato juice
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pepper
  • Alcohol (Vodka or Gin)

Add the Secret ingredient:

Spice it up with:

  • Horseradish
  • Hot sauce/Tobasco
  • Lemon juice

Salt the rim:

  • Lemon juice
  • Celery salt

Top it off with delicious skewered embellishments:

  • Cheeses
  • Meats
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Shrimp
  • Vegetables (tomatoes, celery, cucumber, celery)

Watch Genji Leclair’s full interview on Good Day Northern Michigan, here.

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Month in the Hive – December

 

Michigan bee hives will be “chilling out” this winter as they wait for the upcoming spring season. For beekeepers, there’s not much to do for your bees over the next couple months. No need to peek on your bee colony – opening the hive risks the escape of warm air. It’s time to just let the bees be.

While bees don’t actually hibernate during the winter months, they do cluster tightly together to stay warm in the hive. Beekeepers may see their bee colony die during Michigan’s cold winter. This is okay. If this happens to you, don’t be embarrassed. It is inevitable that some bee colonies just can’t survive the cold weather. If you’ve already winterized your hives, there isn’t anything else you can do to help them until the weather starts to thaw out in late winter. Until then, enjoy the holidays and the coziness that winter brings. If you want to get a head start preparing for the upcoming apiary season, here are a few ideas:

  • Join a local bee club, attend club meetings and learn from others about being an apiarian or share your knowledge with others.
  • Spruce up your equipment: Is your equipment in need of repairs? Now is a good time to take inventory of your bee equipment and make any necessary repairs or replace old or broken equipment. If you need new equipment, we recommend Dadant for all your beekeeping supplies.
  • Read up about bees and the apiary culture: On a snowy day or night, curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea (mixed with our delicious Hasselman’s Honey, of course) and immerse yourself in the world of bees.

A few of our favorites:

For Newbies

For Practical Beekeeping

For the Bee Enthusiast

For Continued Learning

For History Buffs

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Watch GLBC’s Genji Leclair make Habanero Honey Margarita and Healthy Honey Ball on Good Day Northern Michigan

 

In celebration of National Honey Month this September, Great Lakes Bee Co. Owner Genji Leclair recently shared her Habanero Honey Margarita and Healthy Honey Ball recipes on Good Day Northern Michigan on 9&10 News.

“Margaritas are basically just citrus and tequila, so you can get creative in how you make it,” Leclair told Good Day Northern Michigan hosts Sid Simone and David Lyden as she began mixing grapefruit, lime, lemon and orange juices with tequila. “What makes ours special is the habanero honey – it’s a great alternative to sugar.”

Great Lakes Bee Co. – producer of Hasselman’s Honey – was founded by Larry Hasselman in Newaygo in 1974. Leclair, who grew up on honey, took over for Hasselman when he retired eight years ago.

“I’m a honey person. When I moved to Newaygo, I popped into the local grocery store and bought the local honey. When I tasted the honey, I had to call Larry to find out why this honey was so good,” Leclair said during the live Good Day Northern Michigan segment. “From there I learned all about the honey.

“We do it exactly the same way as Larry’s done since 1974,” Leclair added. “We’ve changed nothing. It’s all delicately handled. We don’t overheat the honey at all – it’s raw right out of the hives and it’s very special because the microclimate in Newaygo is very unique with an unusual blend of flowers. We only collect and sell the honey from summer – and so you have this crazy good taste that’s different – very different. It’s just amazing honey out of Newaygo.”

For the Healthy Honey Ball
• Leclair recommends having a base, such as oats (grinded) and a nut butter – peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter.
• Then pick what you would want to mix in: cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, chocolate chips, cranberry, raisins, apricots, etc.
• Mix together – then add the secret ingredient: Honey
• Stir and roll it into a ball with your hands, then roll a topping like, coconut shavings or pecans or other nuts, over your ball and voila!

Charcuterie, Cheese or Fruit Board
• Add honey to enhance your charcuterie, cheese or fruit board flavors and pairings
• Blue cheese pairs well with honeycomb
• Goat cheese pairs well with lavender honey
• Leclair recommends playing around with different flavors of honey: pepper honey, habanero honey, etc.

“There are different flavors in the region depending on the floral sources,” said Leclair. “You can go to northern Michigan and you’ll get a lot of star thistle, which is a little bit lighter honey, and as you head down south, you get different types of flowers so you’ll get darker and different blends. It’s fun to taste honey from all regions. I really enjoy honey – people send me honey from all over the world and it’s just crazy how different they taste from region to region.

“Even just here in Michigan, across the state from north to south, you’ll get different honey and its different in the spring than it is in the summer and the fall. You’ll get a great experience tasting honey all over the world, but especially here in Michigan, we just have a lot of flavors.”

Great Lakes Bee Co.’s Hasselman’s Honey can be found at Whole Foods Grand Rapids, Spice Merchants inside Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, Rockford Cheese Shop; and in area Spartan Stores soon. It’ll also be available at West Michigan Meijer stores starting in mid-October. All honey products, including beeswax, candles, balms, salves, can also be found line at www.GreatLakesBeeCo.com

Watch Genji Leclair’s full interview on Good Day Northern Michigan, here.