All abuzz with new hobby
There are beekeepers and then there are Beekeepers, those self-sufficient souls who care for their bees carefully and lovingly, with the respect that those fascinating, vital and endangered creatures deserve. Raymond Belanger, of Stanstead
East, is just one of those beekeepers, taking up the hobby right after he finished a beekeeping course at the Magog Community Learning Centre, about five years ago.
“I wanted a hobby after I retired so I took the course, and I was hooked. Everyone in that course decided to go ahead and start beekeeping, so we started a club called Hive Happenings,” explained Mr. Belanger enthusiastically. “We’ve all become good friends.”
Although Raymond keeps only four hives and has only been at it a few years, his knowledge about bees is extensive. “A bee lives only about six weeks in the summer. For the first few weeks they are house’ bees, cleaning, feeding the queen, processing the nectar and pollen into honey, and making honeycomb. Then they become guard bees for a while, protecting the hive from other bees and wasps,” said Mr. Belanger. Finally, these female bees spend their last few weeks collecting nec- tar and pollen, virtually wearing themselves out in the process. n the old bees, you can see their wings all worn down.”
Male bees, or drones, on the other hand, lead quite a different life. “A drone bee watches T , smokes cigars and just waits for the queen to emerge,” joked Mr. Belanger as he described the sedentary life of the male drone. “But lots of women appreciate this part: in the fall, the female bees say you lazy things’ and kick them all out of the hive ”
It was a little surprising to learn from Mr. Belanger how the bees make honey. “The house bee will remove the pollen from the legs of the bees returning to the hive. Then they process it by chewing it and spitting it out. ne bee, in its lifetime, will gather enough pollen and nectar to make only about one sixteenth of a teaspoon of honey,” said the beekeeper.
Although getting stung now and again seems to come with the territory of being a beekeeper, the bees generally leave all of Raymond and his wife Linda’s grandchildren and visitors alone. “Sometimes someone is wearing a certain perfume, or aftershave, or strawberry shampoo; now that can cause a bit of a panic. But we’re in the backyard a lot with our grandkids and we never get bothered by the bees,” said Linda who helps with the beekeeping, specializing in making beeswax candles.
“I learnt pretty quick that you only go into your hive on a nice sunny day when half of the bees are out. ou don’t open it up on a windy or rainy day, or at night. nce, when I got home at night from the fair with the bees, I tried to put them back in their hive and they chased me down the road ”admitted Raymond.
But the endeavor is well worth the effort, providing enough liquid gold’ for the Belanger family and a few lucky friends and relatives. Besides col- lecting and bottling pure honey, Raymond also likes to make other tasty and beneficial honey products like coconut honey butter, almond honey butter, cranberry orange flavoured creamed honey, and he’ll have a few jars for sale at ardin-des-Frontieres’ upcoming craft sale on November 2 th. He and Linda have also experimented making honey ginger ale and honey body products.
Raymond’s bees are now waiting for winter to arrive, like the rest of us. “We stop taking honey from our hives right after Labor Day so that whatever they produce after that is theirs for the winter. They worked hard all summer so they deserve it. Even with a good honey supply, bees can sometimes starve to death in the winter. Some people bring their bees into the barn, but you can’t warm them unnaturally. Too much moisture can develop in the hive and will kill them before the cold will.”
“My favourite part about beekeeping is going to the Ayer’s Cliff Fair,” said Raymond who has set up a working hive in the Horticulture Building for the last few years. “My Grandfather and father went and my uncles all exhibited in the Horticulture Building I grew up going to the Fair.
I really enjoy talking about bees with the children; they all want to find the queen bee,” explained Mr. Belanger who continued: “I talk to the children and the adults about how important bees are when it comes to pollinating our fruits and vegetables. With all the fruits and vegetables and beautiful flowers all around, the Horticulture Building is a perfect spot to talk about it.”
It is said that seventy of the top one hundred human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees. Unfortunately, bee populations are declining drastically for a number of reasons. “The bees are being affected by the planting of treated seeds, the spraying of insecticides, the use of neonicotinoids…and once the bees are
Raymond Belanger controls mites in his hive the chemical-free way by freezing his bee frames temporarily.