Huron Perth Junior Farmers tour local honey farm
BY JOLANDE OUDSHOORN
The Huron Perth Junior Farmers held its inaugural Toonie Tours and it was “un-bee-lievable”!
On Aug. 8, the Huron Perth Junior Farmers met at Field and Forest Honey Farm. The bee yard, surrounded by wildlife and a quarry-turned-lake, is owned by Scott Currie and Tom Prout.
Scott took us through the protective gear that helps mitigate bee stings. His kit includes sheep-skin gloves and a smoker, which helps encourage the bees to leave the hive.
Next, Scott and Tom went through the process of collecting and harvesting honey. We saw what capped honey looks like as well as the different styles of frames in a honey super (plastic versus wax foundations), which is where the bees store their honey. The plastic sheets have honeycomb patterns which help encourage bees to collect and cap the honey faster.
Next, we learned about the different types of bees and the life cycle of a bee. We learned that worker bees are female and make up the majority of the hive. The lifespan of a worker bee is six weeks. Their stinger has barbs on it, so that when they sting, their internal organs are pulled out, causing them to die.
There are a few male bees or drones in a hive. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. After this occurs, they die. Additionally, they do not have stingers.
The last type of bee is a queen bee. The queen lays eggs for approximately two years, and then she is replaced for maximum efficiency. They are bigger than both workers and drones and can sting multiple times. To prevent the queen from leaving the nest, beekeepers put a queen excluder (selective screen) in between the honey super and deep super. The screen is small enough for the other bees to leave but not the queen.
A queen is formed by giving the larva extra royal jelly. This jelly is produced by the worker bees and is high in nutrients.
Approximately five queen eggs are laid at a time. When the first queen hatches, she will kill the other queen eggs before they hatch in order to gain control of the hive. Scott is able to take advantage of this process by moving the excess eggs a few days before they hatch to another hive where there are signs of an unhealthy hive, such as swarming, the queen bee has died, or the hive is not producing well.
Finally, Scott went over some of the requirements of beekeeping, such as registering your hive, bees must come from approved distributors, and have proper labeling in order to sell jars of honey. We ended the tour by walking calmly through the bee yard. It is important to remain calm and not to swat at bees in order to not harm the livestock, but to also not encourage aggressive behaviours in the bees.
President Lauren Bos then thanked both Scott and Tom for graciously taking time out of their day to teach Junior Farmers about honey bees. Everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learned lots about this niche agricultural product.