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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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Great Lakes Bee Company featured in The Metropolitan

 

Writer and gardner Jamiel Dado joined us for our second beekeeping class in March. 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.

In his article, Jamiel writes:

“Stefan (Braun) turned out to be a very affable teacher and made the time fly. He made it quite clear from the beginning that keeping bees would result in getting stung quite often. He said that he gets stung on average 50 times a year. He explained that although he wears the protective headgear, he doesn’t usually wear the gloves. I could imagine that they would be bulky and thus difficult to handle things. At this point, a retired doctor in the group informed the class that bee sting therapy was still widely used in the treatment of arthritis. So, I guess it’s a positive thing? It became clear during the presentation that many things the beekeeper does to the bees ends up making them angry, explaining the large amount of stinging involved. His main advice regarding the stinging was to get the stinger out as soon as possible.

One of the controversial aspects about beekeeping (and there are several) that I have come across is the notion that when you harvest honey from the hive, you essentially starve the bees during the winter. I was happy to learn during the course of the day that this is not the method of the responsible beekeeper. Each hive of bees needs between 60-100 pounds of honey to get through the winter. This is accomplished in the space of two supers filled with honeycombed nucs. Once these are filled, additional supers and nucs are placed on top and those are soon filled as well. Stefan asserts that bees are naturally overachievers and will produce much more honey than they need to get through the winter. On average, using this method will supply you with 50-100 pounds of excess honey to harvest per hive!

That’s a lot of honey!

Way to go bees!

One of the best pieces of advice that Stefan stressed on more than one occasion was to find a local bee club to find a mentor and resources. Most bee clubs will have important equipment needed to harvest honey and will usually share or rent it out to members.

If the idea of having a surplus of honey and a new hobby interests you, then I would recommend learning a thing or two from Stefan and the Great Lakes Bee Company. In addition to the classes, they sell bees to get you all set up. In fact, you can purchase nine frame “nucs” that will give you a head start on your honey production.”

Thank you, Jamiel, for joining us at our beekeeping class and writing a fun story about beekeeping!

Read Jamiel’s full article in The Metropolitan, here.

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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 – October

We hope our local beekeepers have successfully scooped up their bees’ last few drops of honey as last month was Honey Month. Enjoy September’s harvest as it’ll be awhile before we get any more of that gooey goodness. Cooler weather has arrived in Michigan, which means winter is on the horizon. For beekeepers, winterizing your hives is key to helping your bees survive West Michigan’s cold winter temperatures.

In October, you may have noticed the queen slowed down on her egg laying. As a hive moves through fall into winter the workers have been limiting the queen’s ability to lay eggs by backfilling the brood with winter stores. The hive’s drone population should have diminished by this time of year. A hive with drones in late-October may be an indication of a bigger problem. As the temperatures have cooled and resources have become scarce, you may see a handful of bees venture out of the hive looking for food on the occasionally warm autumn day.

Winterizing hives can take many forms. At a minimum, a winterized hive will have the feeder removed and the entrance reduced. A tip when using your entrance reducer, turn it so the smallest opening up for the bees to use. As bees die through the winter, having the entrance turned up gives an extra 1⁄4 inch of space for dead bees before the entrance is blocked. Other regular additions include adding on a mouse guard, a feeding shim, and a quilt box.

Also, some choose to cover or wrap their hives with foam board or black tar paper. Although winter does get cold, West Michigan winters generally do not get cold enough for long enough to require us to wrap our hives. Although not necessary, insulating the hive will reduce the bees’ work keeping the hive warm, but do not artificially heat the hive. Bees handle cold fairly well, but moisture causes bees difficulty. Wood chips or burlap in a quilt box will help wick condensation out of the hive.

Part of winterization is ensuring your bees have enough food. If your hive does not have 60 to 100 pounds of stored honey, October will be your last chance to feed liquid feed. All liquid feed should be pulled before the weather starts to freeze at night. If your bees still need feed, use fondant or sugar bricks. Do not feed pollen or pollen substitute for the remainder of fall. The reduction in pollen flow signals the bees to finish rearing winter bees as they prepare for
winter.

Varroa treatments should be done after pulling honey in early fall. But, if the mite loads in your hive are still elevated, you will want to treat them as soon as possible. Make sure to remove chemical varroa mite treatments according to label directions and that all treatments are removed before winterizing your hives.

Finally, consider when you will take your losses. Weak hives will struggle and likely parish over the winter. To keep those resources from being squandered, think about combining weak hives to those that could use a boost.

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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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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.”