Before stepping foot on Rob Jenkins’s property in Ethel, the low hum of buzzing can be heard. Look closely enough, and you might see a couple of bees flying through the air.
Jenkins, who has been beekeeping for 15 years, produces honey and other bee products from his beehives. He also offers free bee removals by capturing swarms, often with the help of a fellow beekeeper, and bringing the bees back to his farmstead where they continue making honey.
Jenkins got into beekeeping after helping a neighbor remove a swarm in a local orchard. He has slowly grown his business, Bee Wrangler Honey, and offers multiple types of honey, including honey flavored with lavender, jalapeno, and habanero, as well as bee pollen and honeycomb. He has found success in producing other products such a lip balms and lotion bars, which can also be infused with lavender.
Bee products can have myriad of properties, he said, including remedying allergies in both humans and dogs.
“I can’t and won’t say that they will always work, but people have had a lot of success,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins said the trick is to use honey made from the specific allergen. If you haven’t pinpointed what you are allergic to, he suggests using his spring or fall wildflower honey, which is made of nectar and pollen of various plants.
He also claims his lavender-infused lotion bar is great for burns, especially sunburns.
‘Magic bee space’
After more than a decade, Jenkins has become a master of bee knowledge.
He said bees leave 3/8th of an inch of space between comb — just enough to move around — and won’t build comb past that.
Jenkins calls this the “magic bee space.”
“If you give them more than 3/8ths of an inch, they will build comb in it,” the apiarist said. “Bees know how to color within the lines.”
To make honey, the bees bring in nectar from flowers. Nectar has the consistency of water, so the bees fan their wings over the nectar until it hits 17% moisture. The bees will then form a cap to close off the cell to hold in the newly formed honey, which can be harvested.
Jenkins uses a fan to artificially wick moisture away for about two weeks before harvesting, which he said produces thicker honey.
Only one queen bee lives in a hive, he said. She produces all workers, which are female bees, and drones, which are males.
The drone bees’ only purpose is to mate with the queen. They do not retrieve nectar or have stingers.
“All the drones have to do is drink beer and sit and watch TV,” Jenkins joked.
Worker bees, who live for about six weeks in the summer, retrieve nectar and pollen, guard and clean the hive, and care for the queen.
Depending on what is going on in the hive, the hive will decide when they need a new queen.
A queen, willingly replaced due to old age, will produce swarm cells at the comb’s bottom frame, where she will lay eggs, one of which will become the future queen.
“She lays eggs knowing that a future daughter will take her spot,” said Jenkins.
In an unhealthy hive where bees are disgruntled with their queen, the colony will produce an emergency cell in the middle of the comb where another female will take the queen’s place.
Each of Jenkins’ hives consist of a brood box, where the queen typically lives and lays her eggs. A box contains 10 frames where the bees build their comb.
The bottom two boxes contain bee bread, a mixture of pollen, enzymes and proteins that bees live off of in the winter when they are hibernating.
Worker bees hibernate in the winter. But before the dormant state begins, the workers kick out the drones toward the end of summer so they won’t drain resources.
The bees will cluster together, and each take turns moving from the center to the outside to prevent overheating.
They typically start flying again once the temperature rises above 45 degrees. But Jenkins said some hives are pickier than others and will wait until it is 60 degrees.
At the beginning of swarm season or when they find a new hive, bees go on an orientation flight.
“When they come to hive entrance, they do a little dance that tells the other bees the distance of the food source along the quality and quantity,” said Jenkins.
Bees, especially newborns, will fly further out each time. Jenkins calls this “setting their bee GPS.”
When moving a hive, a beekeeper must either only move it 2 feet at a time or past the 2-mile forage range.
“They are so complex,” said Jenkins. “We will never know everything about bees.”
Bee Wrangler Honey
Online: Search "Bee Wrangler Honey" on Facebook to find then next local event where products will be sold.
Contact: 360-219-3092 or email@example.com
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Source: Longtime beekeeper Rob Jenkins.