Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Learning beekeeping in Michigan
Published on May 12, 2007 By Draginol In Pets & Nature

This past week my son and I visited Turtlebee Farms. It's an amazing place located just outside of Byron Michigan.  Turtlebee Farms has seasonal classes on caring for honey bees.

Alex and I have decided to become hobbiest beekeepers.  We've gotten a lot of equipment and a place for the bees prior to going but we haven't yet actually acquired bees.  We wanted to make sure we were fully prepared for the responsibility and effort involved in taking care of honey bees.  Plus, I wanted to make sure my son would be able to handle being up close and personal to bees.

Here's some pictures:

Mr. Bennett shows us how to takes bees from a Nuc and put them into a new hive.

My son and some other children around a hive. Honey bees can be very docile, especially when there isn't any honey to defend.

There's a reason why it's called Turtlebee farm. There's a pond with an amazing number of turtles in it at the farm. The water is literally rippling from so many turtles (think many dozens of Painted Turtles).


Mrs. Bennett made bread while we were there from scratch and the entire class was very informative and helpful.  Before coming, I had read up on a couple of books on beekeeping as well as researched what I could on the net but found my understanding greatly enhanced from the class. 

One other observation about the class that I thought was particularly interesting was that nearly every other child (and possibly every other child) was home schooled. My son goes to public school and I had taken him out of school that day to take him to this. But the sense of parental involvement was very tangible and the people incredibly nice with very well behaved children attending (a far different experience from my experiences in chaperoning field trips for my boys where the kids seem out of control often times).

Turtlebee Farms sells everything you might want to become a beekeeper as well as a wide selection of honey based products.  It was a really enjoyable time. If you live in the lower peniulsa of Michigan and are curious about learning more about honey bees, I highly recommend Turtlebee Farms.


on May 12, 2007
I have to say this is very cool what you are doing. It's not what one might consider a "normal" hobby, but that's what makes it even cooler.
on May 12, 2007
Yea, I was looking for something as low-tech (not computer) as possible for a hobby since I spend all day on computers.
on May 12, 2007
I think its great you are doing this with your boys.  This will be something they remember for the rest of their lives.
on May 12, 2007
I have to say this is very cool what you are doing. It's not what one might consider a "normal" hobby, but that's what makes it even cooler.

I agree. But then there's something poignantly sad to me that bee keeping has become just another rich man's hobby and not a working man's livelyhood.
on May 12, 2007

Actually you can make some serious money in bee keeping.

Farmers will pay up to $200 per hive to rent them for the Spring season for pollination. THey'll pick them up and take them to places like California for the Almond inustry or oranges or what have you.  Some beekeepers may have a thousand or two thousand hives in place.  That would be $200k in income from that.

I only plan to have 2 to 4 hives when it's all done so it's purely a hobbiest thing. But it's a very inexpensive hobby.  You can get equipment very cheap or make it yourself. And a package of bees can be gotten for like $20 to $30.

Admittedly, I've not taken a very cost effective approach because I have no..skills at doing anything other than what I do for a living. So I've had to buy pretty much everything that's involved and I'll probably end up buying a "starter hive" along with some Nucs.

on May 13, 2007

One other observation about the class that I thought was particularly interesting was that nearly every other child (and possibly every other child) was home schooled. My son goes to public school and I had taken him out of school that day to take him to this

Eh, I dont think so!  I think this day he was getting a great education, home schooled style!

I do love Honey Bees. I am glad that your son is getting to know them and you as well.  Having been stung by everything, I have grown fond of them.  I really hate when one stings me, not because of the hurt (as that is almost nil), but because they will die.

Ok, sue me!  I am a softie!

Looking forward to the Stardock Bee hives!  In a way, I am jealous.  I wish I had thought of doing it with my sons!

on May 13, 2007
It sounds like you two had a really good day out. It also sounds like a very good father son bonding project to do.

Has your son ever been stung by a bee, I ask this out of curiosity with regard to allergic reactions etc. I am sincerely hoping that this is not a possibility for either of you.

WWW Link an exert from the page is below, it makes interesting reading. Bees and war.

Quoted from the above link
The locals would have been well aware that honey produced during certain times of the year was naturally poisonous. Honey yielded from the nectar of such plants as Rhododendron ponticum and Azalea pontica contain alkaloids that are toxic to humans but harmless to bees. After the offending blooms have stopped flowering, beekeepers in areas where these plants are common (such as the area of present-day Turkey where this incident occurred) routinely remove this toxic honey so it doesn't contaminate subsequently produced stores. The poisonous honey is then fed back to the bees during time of dearth-- if it hasn't been used first for national defense[2].

(South and Central American Indians used similar honey for ceremonial purges and perhaps for "vision questing"-- see notes following Chapter Two, "The Honeymoon's Over". Deaths have been reported in New Zealand which were attributed to the consumption of honey originating from the "wharangi bush", Melicope ternata[3]. Another New Zealand plant, Coriaria arborea, produces nectar that is safe for incorporation into honey but furnishes toxic honeydew[4] . Other locales where toxic honey has been reported on occasion include Mexico Datura spp., Hungary Datura spp., belladonna=Atropa spp. and Hyoscamus niger, Brazil Serjania lethalis and the southwest U.S. Gelsemium sempervirens[5].)
on May 13, 2007
It's really interesting to me that you have gotten into this hobby. Recently, I've watched a few programs on bee keeping. One was a documentary about a Chinese farmer and his son who took their hives over 1000 miles to some mountains near the Himilayas/Mongolia (I forget the Kanji) so that they could collect honey from that place. That area is a famous honey producing area. It has many flowers and herbs that are used in Chinese medicine so people use it to make medicine.

The color of the honey produced is a golden-green. Honey buyers go up there and bring a sugar tester to measure the honey and to help decide on price. They make serious cash if they have good quality. I'm not just talking about comparative value in China. I think it was something (the program was in Japanese so lots of room for error so please bare with me) 100 dollars per liter.

Sadly, the farmers the film-crew followed were kind of dumb. They didn't completely clean off their honey producing products so their honey was mixed with other stuff and one buyer said it was very bad quality.

The area was very beautiful-- high in the mountains, fields covered with wild-flowers. Nomads from Mongolia would also camp there for the summer to gather honey for the year and herbs for medicine.

Honey has become a designer item in Tokyo. I've seen a few up-scale shops and a lot of counters in upper-class department stores that only sell different types of honey. You can buy honey made from blossoms of lemon trees from Spain or from Italy. Crazy! I was tempted, but twenty dollars for a small jar of honey (maybe 50 grams)? Crazy!

Your blog and those programs really inspired me. If I ever get a chance to own a property in rural Japan, I will look into getting a hive. I'm kind of scared of bees but I could deal if I had protective gear.

I hope your bee keeping venture is successful
on May 16, 2007

Yea, we had a great time.

I get my bees on Thursday!