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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A bee's tale

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Keeping safe Darrell Veencamp is pictured here in his protective gear as he is getting ready to harvest the honey from the bee hive.
Cherokee men harvest honey for hobby

During this time of year, everybody's sweet tooth is aching, and one of the sweetest things of all, is rich golden honey.

Darrell Veencamp of Cherokee has a little hobby of making honey. Three years ago, Veencamp and one of his friends, Paul Huffey, decided to throw their hats over the wall and try their luck at bee farming.

Harvesting time Paul Huffey is using a hot knife to scrap the wax off of the honey comb frames so the honey can be collected.
It was an idea that Huffey had for a hobby and Veencamp was also interested in. In the beginning, Veencamp was working at Wells Dairy in Le Mars. "I was busy working and didn't have time, so Paul and I pooled our money to buy the equipment that we needed. "said Veencamp

"Later, when I started working at Tyson in Cherokee, I had more time to put into this hobby " said Veencamp. "Neither one of us knew anything about bees," admitted Veencamp, but that didn't stop them from trying.

Veencamp went on to describe the process of raising the honey bees. Interestingly enough, the process is a lot like regular farming. It all starts in the spring. During that time it's important to treat the hive for disease and infestation. Also, at that time they give the hive sugar water until mother nature can produce pollen for them.

The boxes are home for the honey bees. It's where they lay their eggs. They dwell at the bottom of the boxes. After mating, the bees' eggs are hatched in a larva stage called a brood. Eventually the brood matures into either drones, workers or a queen.

The boxes that the bees live in are made of wood and there are a couple of layers of boxes stacked on top of each other. Inside the boxes there are frames where the honey bees build their honey comb and produces wax and honey in.

Each box contains about 10 frames and the top boxes are used to gather the honey and the bottom boxes are left alone so the hive has food during the winter.

During the summer the hives are left alone except for routine check-ups and to keep the hive clean of infestation such as moths or wild animals. Usually, the bees will defend their homes but occasional bugs can infiltrate the hive so the hive is kept off the ground by sitting on concrete blocks. No treatment is done during the summer months because that might contaminate the honey.

During the fall, it's harvest time. When workers approach the hives that's when the bee suits come on. Using a smoker that make the bees calm and docile, its time to pull the frame out of the boxes.

At this time, Veencamp wraps the hive in insulation for the winter time and the honey bee's have collected enough food for the winter.

After the frames are pulled it's time for the extraction of the honey. Veencamp describes how they take the frames that contain the honey packed in honeycombs sealed in bee's wax to his garage where they scrape off the wax from one side and then put the frames in a large tub with a crank on top that spins the frame inside of the tub.

With the centrifugal force the honey is splattered inside of the tub and gravity pulls the honey down to the bottom of the tub where there is an opening to let the honey out. Before the honey is jarred it runs though a filter, just like a coffee filter, and is then jarred. The wax is collected off of the frames and then the frames are cleaned and ready for next year.

"Last year's crop of honey produced about 14 gallons of honey," said Veencamp. "The first two years we did this, there was nothing," added Veencamp. Then one of Huffey's neighbors, Don Witcombe, helped them out.

Witcombe has been a bee farmer for many years and was getting out of the hobby, so he decided to help Veencamp and Huffey get started. "We still wouldn't have anything if it weren't for Don getting us on the right track," he said.

After the success of last year's "crop," Veencamp decided to sell some of his honey, figuring it's a unique gift for Christmas. He is now down to the last couple of gallons.

When asked if he has ever been stung, Veencamp just smiled and said "It comes with the territory."

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