Most people take up a hobby for enjoyment, but what if you could actually profit from it? There's an activity, just down the road, that everyone is buzzing about.
"It's really surprising how many people there are keeping bees these days." -says beekeeper Jeff Ludwig.
At the Byron Forest Preserve, veteran beekeepers are volunteering their time, teaching classes on the basics of beekeeping. These classes give beginners knowledge on queen rearing, the honey extraction process, and how to prevent bees from parasitic infections. Parasites have been a problem for Ludwig, who is also a forest preserve volunteer, and teaches a monthly class on beekeeping. He's had to bring in hygienic queen bees from New York to help clean out his colonies. It's a costly solution at $120 a bug, but Ludwig says hygienic bees payoff in the end.
"If you can raise 50 to 100 daughters off of one hygienic queen, and then repopulate your bee colony so that they're healthier, it's worth the money."
Right now, bee populations are flourishing at the forest preserve, and honey production has almost doubled this year, all thanks to hot weather, and a lack of rain.
"I think that the soybean nectar, which is what they're basically getting now, is more concentrated. Since there's a lack of moisture, plants are producing a more concentrated product." -says Illinois Queen Initiative Coordinator Stu Jacobson, who also teaches classes at the preserve.
Bees work best in warm temperatures, and during these hot summer months, they can forage from sun up to sun down. Plus, there's less rain to wash nectar out of the plants, so it's more available to the bees. Excess honey means more revenue for beekeepers who sell their product.
"It's a win-win for the bees and the beekeeper. The bees work hard enough to make a surplus of honey, and the beekeeper, in return, gives them a nice place to live." -adds Ludwig.
Jeff Ludwig teaches his classes once a month at the forest preserve, his next class is August 12th. All are welcome, there's no prior beekeeping experience needed. The classes cost is $2 each session, that's less than a jar of honey.
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