Friday, October 26, 2012
All about beekeeping
Steve Page of Barrington Farms, LLC was our guest speaker at Crossroads Garden Club this past Monday evening, October 23rd. Page is a certified beekeeper in the Georgia Master Beekeeper program, sponsored by the University of Georgia. He has won numerous awards, including the 2011 Beekeeper of the Year awarded by the Coweta Beekeepers Association and his honey has been named Coweta's Best Tasting Honey.
Above, members of Crossroads Garden Club ask questions after Page's presentation.
Page began keeping bees in 2007 when he purchased two hives after noticing how few honeybees were visiting his garden. His bee hives grew in number each year until he no longer has time for the garden. He now has over 70 hives in Coweta and south Fulton counties and has seen his honey yields grow every year. He harvests approximately 50 pounds of honey from each hive every May and it is astounding how much honey his bees produce altogether. His yields have increased so much each year, that he is a very "busy beekeeper"
Steve Page allowed use of his photos, so all of the images of bees are courtesy of Page. Above, Page explained that bees see flowers as vibrant, attractive ultraviolet colors and easily hone in on the colorful flowers as they fly in search of nectar and pollen to take back to their hives.
Bees are very busy, too and Page related some facts about bees and beekeeping in his presentation.
First, bees live in a box called a super and there said there are three types of bees in every hive--the queen, the drone and the worker.
The queen is an overdeveloped female bee that is made that way by being fed a diet of royal jelly by worker bees until she develops into a larger bee raised in special queen cells. Mature queens are then mated by male, drone bees and she spends her days laying eggs in honey comb cells.
The worker bees, all female, go out and bring in pollen and nectar from flowers and make the honey and bee bread which feeds developing bees. A worker bee takes about three weeks to mature from an embryo. Above, a worker bee transports pollen back to the hive.
The color of the nectar determines the color, taste and crystallization-time of honey.
Some interesting facts about bees:
Much of the honey in our area is from the tulip poplar but if you looked into the hives you would see honey cells with varying hues in the same comb. The honey will take on different colors depending on what is in bloom.
Above are some of Page's hives with varying numbers of supers. Page stacks new supers as the lower ones are filled. Beekeepers never "rob" the bees of all their honey.
Bees feed on nectar and turn it into honey by a process that is similar to fermentation. They do this because nectar spoils easily and honey is very stable. Honey is their winter food source and they make more honey than they need for the winter. It provides the bees with carbohydrates and protein to get them through each winter.
The bees seals each cell as it is filled with honey.
Most plants that produce fruit need full pollination of each flower by the bees to produce a complete fruit. For instance, an underdeveloped, pointy cucumber must have pollination of each seed to make a complete cucumber. Squash that die prematurely on the vine or apples that are misshapen are that way because of incomplete pollination.
Bees pollinate one-third of all crops grown. Bumblebees and other types of bees pollinate too, but it has been determined that bees increase food production in the U.S. by $16 billion dollars each year. Bees are so important to the production of fruits and vegetables on farms that some beekeepers (with huge numbers of bees) are contracted to move them on semi trucks to help farmers pollinate their crops. Bees often travel from coast to coast this way, following the blooming crops.
In our area, bees are at work from January to the middle of June and from the middle of September until frost each year. The new crop of honey is ready in May or June.
Above bees pollinate apple blossoms and below they drink water.
There are four kinds of honey: extracted, chunk honey, comb honey and creamed honey. Honey should be stored inside a cabinet protected from light and may be frozen to extend the shelf life and to keep it from crystallizing.
Honey has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, for wounds, cough, sore throat, as a sleep aid and is used to prevent allergies. Honey should never be fed to a child under two years of age because of their undeveloped digestive systems.
Page said it is always recommended to purchase honey from from a local grower for two reasons: First, because eating honey that is locally produced is reported to help fight allergies and in recent years it has become a common practice for unscrupulous honey sellers to add less expensive corn syrup to honey to extend it--a practice called "honey-laundering." Also honey is being purchased from China and that honey sometimes contains leads and harmful chemicals.
Above, Janelle Taylor, a Crossroads Garden Club member, is tasting honey from Pages' bees.
Page captures swarms each year and puts them in hives where they produce honey. It is common for a beekeeper to be stung by a bee or two on occasion, but said the stings become less bothersome and he has learned to wipe the stinger away quickly so less venom is injected. He said that stings may even be good for those who suffer with arthritis.
Page is also a pioneering beekeeper who has merged technology with beekeeping. He has a hive that is hooked up to advanced equipment and from his computer or cell phone he can get a picture of how well his hive is progressing. He monitors hive temperatures, weight and humidity. Page thinks that combining technology and nature will make a difference as time goes by. You can see this online at his website, cowetahoney.com.
Page is a member of the Coweta Beekeepers Association that meets each month at the Asa Powell Sr. Expo Center on Temple Avenue, in Newnan. It is a very active club, dedicated to expanding the knowledge of beekeeping, in hopes of increasing the honeybee population in our area. Members travel from neighboring counties each month to attend the monthly meetings. All meetings are open to the public. Members speak in schools and offer help and mentoring for new beekeepers.
They offer a class each year for beginners, "Introduction to Beekeeping." It's an all day event, held this year on Saturday, January 26, 2013. The day includes enough information to get started in beekeeping and includes a book, lunch and tons of advice. The class cost is $50 for individuals. Additional family members may attend for an extra $10, though only one book will be provided per family for that price.
Page has not experienced any colony collapse disorder that has been in the news in recent years, yet he related that it is still a problem with large beekeeper who follow the crops by transporting bees all over the country to pollinate fruit and vegetable farms.