A Bee's Life: Making honey proves to be harder than it looks - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

A Bee's Life: Making honey proves to be harder than it looks


Have you ever thought about where you get the honey for your morning tea? Or the berries on your yogurt? Honey bees are to thank for that. We made a trip to see the beekeeper at work, as Raines Honey Farm's, Phillip Raines, fights a growing shortage of honey bees, to get the sweetness from the hive, to our plates.

Hundreds of thousands of bees. That's what Phillip Raines and other beekeepers around the country deal with on a daily basis.

"I went to my wife and said I can't find any local honey, how about we just get two hives? Just two, I promise only two," Phillip Raines says, who owns Raines Honey Farm.

Now, it's a business, as Raines Honey Farm supplies honey all to restaurants and farms all over the Chicago area. I'm terrified of bees, but wanted to face my fears to try my hand at beekeeping. First, I suited up. With my bee veil and suit block out the little buggers. Then we got to work. First, we smoked out the bees, to distract their focus.

"When there's a fire in the woods and they smell the smoke, all the bees will start eating honey, so that when I go in there to do a manipulation or to work with them, they ignore me and they're focused on if there might be a fire in the woods," Raines says. "They get all the honey they can, in case they have to leave the hive."

Getting the focus away from me sounded like a good plan. The next step was to load the boxes on top of the hives.

"So right now what we're doing is we're gonna put one super on each hive and the bees will slowly fill them up with honey, and as the season goes on and these boxes fill up, we'll just keep adding more boxes until there's probably three or four boxes on each hive," Raines says.

I got a lesson on the hierarchy of bees as well, from the queen to the drones, otherwise known as the male. I was surprised to learn that the male honey bees don't sting, But unlike wasps and yellow jacket, the female honey bees die after they sting you. Phil showed us, by stinging himself.

"The way to get rid of a stinger, if you do ever get stung by a honey bee, is you take the stinger and you literally scrape it and it will come out," Raines says.

I was gaining confidence. Like Phil said, it's all about making the bee think your confident, even if I wasn't. But before we left, we had to taste some honey! Yumm! So delicious! So after battling the bees and really learning about where our honey comes from, it was time to go.

I'd say I'm not afraid of honey bees anymore. Hornets and yellow jackets? That's a different story.

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