Bees are big business | Farm progress

Bees are big business |  Farm progress

She did just that and proceeded to get “hands-on” by helping him pour jars of honey. One visit ended up being two and three, and so on. “I could tell he was having trouble keeping up with everything, so I helped him more and more, and he helped me set up beehives on my property,” Leclair recalls. “It was amazing, and on the jar it said, ‘Local Honey — Call Larry,’ with his phone number, so I did,” Leclair says. “Larry Hasselman was the owner, and I asked him all kinds of questions about his honey and if I could visit his honey barn.”

Hasselman mentored her for a couple of years before he retired, and she took over the honey production and started Great Lakes Bee Co. with her husband, Steve, and daughter, Lauren Kelly. In addition to selling more than 150,000 pounds of honey each year under the Hasselman name, GLBC also offers beeswax products, and the bees are rented out to help pollinate various crops, including almonds (January in California), apricots, sweet cherries, peaches and plums (April); tart cherries, pears, blueberries and apples (May). “Larry’s honey tradition continues,” says Leclair, who takes pride in also helping new and expanding beekeepers. Not only is she bottling and marketing Newaygo County honey — which comes from a unique blend of alfalfa, clover, basswood, star thistle and West Michigan wildflowers — she’s also fostering the love of beekeeping by supplying bees, queens and nucleus boxes, or “nucs.”

Commercial production of more than 90 crops rely on bee pollination, which accounts for more than $15 billion in annual U.S. agricultural production and $217 billion worldwide, according USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. That’s in addition to 157 million pounds of honey produced in 2019 with a value of a little over $309 million. Honeybees grow in large colonies that can be split to make more. Nucs are frames of comb removed from an established hive that contain comb with a developing brood at several stages of development. In most cases, they also contain cells with honey and pollen stored by the original colony. “Larry always sold bees, so we wanted to continue that,” Leclair says.

Bees play a big role in agriculture. They pollinate crops, increase yields and give rise to a lucrative honey industry. Dinner plates across the world would look quite bare without honeybees, as about one-third of the food eaten by Americans — from nuts to fruits and vegetables — comes from crops pollinated by honeybees, USDA reports.   Honeybee pollination critical

Buying bees Inside the wooden frame is a foundation, where bees draw out comb and place honey and pollen and where the queen lays eggs, Leclair adds.

Other bees were sourced from a large apiary in Georgia with smaller bee packages, which is a wooden frame box with a screen on two sides. Three-pound packages equate to about 10,000 bees and a separate queen, who goes through a process to be accepted by the bees. During demo day May 22, buyers could learn how to introduce bees to a vacant hive box and also how to use smokers. Also, five-frame nucs were available, sourced from an Amish beekeeper in northern Wisconsin. Two Saturdays in May, beekeepers lined up in Fremont to buy nine-frame boxes with Hasselman Honey legacy bees, tended by beekeeper Jeff Green. They were shipped from the state of Georgia, where the bees were basking in the warmth during Michigan’s winter chill, which can kill a hive.

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