This weekend I had the pleasure of going beekeeping again at Ransom Produce in Elm Grove, LA. This time the weather was just warm enough to open some hives and do some preliminary assessments of how the hives performed over winter. Also, since the last post lacked pictures due to technical reasons, I took the liberty to take some this time and I think they are better anyway! In consideration of it being my first time around the hives, Mike was kind enough to lend me his beekeeping suit and a pair of gloves. Digging around in my father’s old military gear, I was able to find an insect net to cover my head… kind of.
Once we suited up, we went over to one of the locations on the farm where they have a few hives and we got straight to work. We began applying smoke to the first hive, opened it up, and began inspection. It was truly fascinating to see the bees hard at work! I will be very honest, since it was my first time, I was a little nervous when we opened the first hive. I even had a few bees fly right into my insect net and fly around my face but one of the first things I was told was not to panic or swat at them because it will just make them swarm. Therefore, I let the bees buzz around my face for a minute or two hoping they would fly out and when they didn’t I calmly walked away from the hive and took off my insect net and let them out. A completely stingless/painless process! In our (Mike and Jacob’s) assessment of the hives we found the first hive to be relatively healthy! The bees had quite a lot of honey, there were brood (eggs, larva, and pupa) meaning they were producing more bees. However, we did find hive beetles which can be detrimental to hives. In the second hive, they weren’t doing so hot. They had a lot of honey, which means they had a good food source over summer, but what we couldn’t find was a queen. Mike suspected that they tried to hatch a new queen but they couldn’t and from his analysis he doesn’t think there are enough bees in the hive for it to survive. The third hive was much more active and healthier. There wasn’t much the smoker could do to try and calm them. They came out in full force to protect the hive. We found that this hive was generating lots of honey and lots of bees with only a small infestation of hive beetles. It was so awesome to see the different attitudes each beehive had to the inspection. Each hive reacted differently, the first was rather docile, the second was a little more agitated but nothing major, and the third was much more aggressive and ready to protect the hive. There are many variables to each hives reaction, whether it was size of the hive or communication with the previous hives, so I couldn’t pin down the reason but from what Mike told me, he thinks each hive is unique in their response regardless of communication with other hives.
After inspecting the hives, we went to their honey shed to pour some honey that would later be sent to a local Granola company in Shreveport named Good Granoly. Mike has a very efficient set-up that can produce what seems like a large amount of honey once they start processing the combs from the hives. One of the unique selling points of Mike’s honey is that it is raw honey, which means it is not pasteurized. He prefers raw honey to pasteurized honey to keep necessary bacteria in the honey and to maintain a good flavor from the local pollen the bees used to make the honey.
After my second time at the Ransom farm, I can definitely say that I will be back to help them work and to learn much much more about beekeeping. After checking the hives, and pouring the honey, I sat down with Mike and Jacob to just talk about bees and agriculture in general. It is so awesome to be able to listen and learn about sustainable agriculture from someone involved in the process. My experience with beekeeping and Ransom Produce have been excellent and I can definitely see myself getting into beekeeping as a hobby once I settle down from my future career as a Foreign Service Officer (wink wink) and procure my own land. In fact, Mike suggested that I invest in a beekeeping suit of my own for the upcoming bee season and for when I depart to Senegal. So I took his advice and did just that; I found and purchased a ventilated suit that should be appropriate for the hot and humid climates of both Louisiana and Senegal! In fact, it is the first piece of equipment that I’ve bought for my packing list!
I am so grateful to Mike and his family for graciously letting me observe, work, and soak up all the information they have to offer! It is so nice to have another hobby especially since I can’t really skate that much at the moment. I also received the email that initiated medical clearance last night which means I am roughly 6 months out from departure and it also means I will develop a close connection with a doctor and a dentist once I present them with all the lovely paperwork I have to have them fill out and all the exams/vaccinations I need completed. I sometimes think 6 months is a long time but I also realize that my perception of time has a tendency to speed up. Therefore, I should enjoy each and every moment I have with my family and friends before I depart. With that said, I begin the first part of my ‘continental US goodbye tour’ (sorry to my friends and family in Hawaii and outside the US) with a trip to Colorado on Friday to visit and snowboard with my best friend Jon from high school in Korea for a week and then another week in Kentucky to hike, fish, and visit a college campus again. I plan to have a decent amount of pictures and stories from my nice 2 weeks off of work to share with you all (y’all*) upon my return!
*- I have no sort of accent whatsoever but I thought I’d add some good ‘ol Louisiana Southern charm for once.