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Month in the Hive – June

It’s bee season! Right now, Michigan bees are foraging on all the blossoming flowers and trees, including sumac, milkweed, basswood and clover, creating a robust nectar flow throughout the month of June.

While bees are out foraging, you might see them swarming as well. We’ve had a few calls about how to handle a swarm. No need to be alarmed – just a little patience and the swarm will usually disband, sometimes within about 15 minutes or an hour.

So why do bees swarm anyway?

A swarm occurs when the reigning queen and about half the bees rush out of the hive entrance together, clustering on a tree limb or another similar object. Bees will continue swarming as they look for a new home. Once the bees have found a new location, the cluster breaks up and the bees fly to their new hive.

The bees that did not leave the hive continue their work in the colony, collecting nectar and pollen and building honey combs. Within the colony, a new queen emerges and looks for rival queens. A “fight-to-the-death” combat ensues until there is only one surviving queen. Once the new queen has mated, she begins to lay eggs and the cycle begins again.

A bee’s natural instinct is to swarm when we have good weather. Since we haven’t had much rain lately in West Michigan, we’re seeing a lot of swarms. Just bee-patient and they’ll naturally move along.

Happy Bee Season!

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Michigan Radio: ‘Bee-ing More Observant’ at Great Lakes Bee Co. Bee Pickup Event

Michigan Radio reporter Dustin Dwyer joined the Great Lakes Bee Co. for the second day of bee pickups this year to learn more about these buzzing pollinators and how they are helping the environment.

“When you get a nuc – a 9-frame nuc – you’re getting a regular hive box that you can use in your yard and they’re filled with bees,” Great Lakes Bee Company Owner Genji Leclair told Dwyer during the annual event. “There’s probably some honey in there, a queen, and baby bees being born – they’re so cute.”

The country’s agriculture depends on bees as farmers need them to pollinate crops, such as blueberries, apples, peaches, cherries, and almonds. Sarah Szymczyk and her family were among the many backyard beekeepers who attended GLBC’s annual spring bee pickup, bringing home thousands of bees inside their nuc.

“Our goal in life is to be sustainable living – being able to grow our own food and live in a space that we don’t depend on any other market and bees is the way to that,” she told Michigan Radio. “You have to have food and bees give you food.”

Listen to Michigan Radio’s full podcast about GLBC’s annual bee pickup: “Bee-ing More Observant.”

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Hit the Road Jack … Go Pollinate Those Almonds!

In January and February, a majority of our honey bees buzz into cargo trucks to make the cross-country voyage to California for the state’s yearly almond pollination. The almond industry is big business in California, producing over 80% of the world’s almonds.

More than 2 million hives from Michigan and other states are trucked into California to pollinate the state’s growing almond trees because the “Golden State” alone doesn’t have sufficient bee population for pollination.

Once the bees land in California, they’re dispersed to more than 7,600 farms where they’ll pollinate the almond trees from February to March.

During that time each year, almond tree buds burst into light pink and white blooms in preparation for pollination. As the trees blossom, honey bees forage for pollen and nectar in the orchard. When the bees move from tree to tree, they pollinate almond blossoms along the way. Each fertilized flower will grow into an almond.

When almond pollinating season ends in California, our bees often travel to Georgia, where they’ll pollinate crops there and make honey before returning to their West Michigan home in May.

We trust our bees are enjoying the warm sunshine in California and look forward to their return home this spring!

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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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Month in the Hive – October

 

Autumn’s cool weather is settling in, which means it’s time for West Michigan beekeepers to maintain their beehives throughout the fall months and begin the winterizing process.

Bees residing in regions that accumulate more snow and tend to experience longer winters, like West Michigan, will need food to survive the upcoming cold winter months. For area beekeepers, we recommend taking off supers – leaving single or double deeps as the bees will naturally gravitate to the upper box.

Since bees keep the hive toasty and warm during the winter, with temps reaching over 90 degrees, condensation will collect inside, which is deadly for bees. Here are a few tricks to keep your bees snug during the winter without the deadly condensation.

1: Add a firing strip under the back side of your hive to tilt the box forward slightly and encourage condensation to drip down the inner front box to the bottom board and not on the bees.

2: Be sure the hive is ventilated properly. Add a riser on top to make room for adding food patties – those can go right on top of your frames if they are solid. We also suggest adding a piece of wax or parchment paper down first to keep any of the food from dripping or dropping. The bees will be fine eating through it or going around it for their food.

3. Add a quilt box with some wood shavings or other absorbent material on top of your riser/food to help control the moisture. We recommend putting the inner and outer cover back on and adding an extra brick on top to keep the top secure. Some beekeepers wrap their hives in roofing paper or add a manufactured hive wrap or insulation. Just be careful not to make it too warm or air tight, which causes the condensation. As long as your hive is well ventilated, you should be all good.

4. Turn your entrance reducer up to the smallest opening that can be used. Because many bees often die throughout the winter, you don’t want the dead bees blocking the entrance. Next, add a mouse guard to keep those cute, but destructive creatures out of the hive.


5. Inspect your bees. This may sound like a simple task, but it is an important one for beekeepers in October. As you examine your beehive, you can determine what condition your bees are in and whether they’re prepared for the winter ahead.

6. Most importantly: Enjoy your honey harvest and share your makings!

Happy (soon-to-be) Winter!

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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.

 

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Month in the Hive – July

 

Now that you have your bees and they have been pollinating the flowers and trees the past few months, it’s time to stand back and let them make that delicious honey!

July is honey-making month, so it’s a good time to let the bees be as they work their honey magic. You do, however, want to keep an eye out for any swarms during this time. When this happens, the reigning queen and about half the bees will rush out of the hive entrance together, clustering on a tree limb or another similar object. This is called swarming, and usually only lasts for an hour or so as the bees look for a new home. Once the bees have found a new location, the cluster breaks up and the bees fly to their new hive.

The bees that did not leave the hive continue their work in the colony, collecting nectar and pollen and building honey combs. Within the colony, a new queen emerges and looks for rival queens. A fight-to-the-death combat ensues until there is only one surviving queen. Once the new queen has mated, she begins to lay eggs and the cycle begins again.

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Month in the Hive – March

March is here! This is an integral time for the health of your bees. Just because the temperature is increasing, doesn’t mean your bees will survive. You’ll likely see lots of bee deaths this month, so it’s important to check the hive and clear out the dead bees to ensure proper ventilation into the hive. A good time to check on the bees is on the days when the temperature hits 50 F.

Continue reading Month in the Hive – March