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Living in the Ozarks allows one to enjoy some of God’s greatest creations: spectacular sunrises, beautiful rolling hills, flowing springs, and all the animals and insects that inhabit the earth in these parts.
As amazing as it may seem, it’s sometimes hard to see the real beauty in all things, such as bees. Not many people can truly say they enjoy being around these pesky insects, but David Dye considers it a hobby.
He got started by buying some used equipment and one hive from his friend, but with bad luck lost the hive. David remarks, “Its hard to keep the hives going. You have a 50-50 shot at making them produce. It’s like anything else, you want the best genetics possible to allow for healthy production.”
He has had up to 100 hives at one time. When asked if he preferred a certain type of bee, he answered by saying, he has good luck with Minnesota Hygenics. David has been in and out of the beekeeping business for several years. He enjoys working with the hives and seeing these very hygienic insects hard at work, but says it is an expensive hobby and just like any other farming, it’s a lot of work.
Dye keeps his bees in boxes just a stone’s throw from the house behind the garage. When standing on the front lawn one can hear the persistent humming of bees all around.
The bees will travel up to 5 miles to gather nectar. David’s bees gather nectar from the white clover growing in his field. He commented on the fact that bees don’t seem to bother the livestock and really don’t bother him as long as he doesn’t get careless and disturb their hives. He can tell when the bees are angry, as they begin to buzz about at a much higher pitch.
There is definitely an art to working bees and it must be done with the gentlest of hands. David usually smokes his bees with a smoker full of burning pine needles before popping open the bee boxes. The bees will seal the boxes down with their propolis in hopes of not being disturbed and keeping the weather out.
David has been stung several hundred times since starting this venture, but never has experienced anything more than swelling.
Bees can get diseases such as fowlbrood, chalkbrood and nosema, and they can attract mites, all of which are treated with antibiotics and mite control. David has never had bee mites, but did once treat one or two hives with antibiotics for fowlbrood.
David says he doesn’t belong to any beekeeping clubs and has learned what he knows about beekeeping through friends, research and just plain trial and error.
Each hive contains 10 frames and one queen, and she is the mother of all the bees in the hive. The queens are developed by larvae selected by worker bees and are specifically fed in order to become sexually mature.
The queen travels on a mating flight and mates with drones to gather enough semen to produce about 20,000 eggs per day. Once she mates with a bee, it dies. David, like most beekeepers, marks his queens with a paint dotter. This helps him visually recognize the queen and the paint color represents what year she was born, odd or even.
Once the queen lays her eggs, the nursery worker bees sees to their development, the worker bees produce enough honey and cap off the cells in the supers frames. At this point, David’s job is to rob the honey from the supers that set on top of the hive body. This process is done by cutting off the cap with a hot knife and spinning out the honey from the frames with special equipment. The last and final step is filling jars with honey to sell.
David has extracted almost 200 pounds of honey this year and last year’s total was around 350 pounds. He sells most of it at the Springfield Farmer’s Market and a few jars are sold locally. Of course he gives a few away as Christmas gifts. David said, “Making honey is definitely not a profitable hobby.” He figures he has never broke even.
We all view things differently in life, but the life of a bee is something definitely in tune with God’s great plan and deserving of praise. Without the hard work of bees and the hard work of beekeepers like David Dye, we would not be able to enjoy the great taste of honey not to mention the benefits that bees provide in the pollination of crops.