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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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2024 Spring Bee Pickup on Saturday, May 4: What you need to know

 

Dear Beekeepers,

2024 Bee Pick-Up Day is Saturday, May 4!

Time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pick Up Address:
Great Lakes Bee Company
5973 S. Warner Avenue
Fremont, MI  49412

Check or Cash helps keep costs down. If you prefer to use a card, a 3% card fee will be added at time of payment. Payments will be due at pick up.

Packaged bees and 5 frame nucs:

  • These are contained and easy to transport. They will need air and circulation, but no additional box or covering is needed.

9 Frame Nucs:

  • You will need a bottom board, outer cover and set of ratchet straps for each nuc.  We have bottoms, covers and straps available at pick up if needed.  9 Frame nucs travel well in the back of a truck, van, roomy trunk.  Be sure it has plenty of ventilation so bees won’t overheat.

We have a wide variety of woodenware and bee equipment available for purchase at pick up.

Keep your eye out for more updates on our social channels as we get closer!

Any questions: text (231) 335-0929 or email info@greatlakesbeeco.com

We can’t wait to see you on Saturday, May 4!

– Great Lakes Bee Company 

 

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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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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.

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