Bees: good for more than just honey

The Prince Albert
The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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The bees in Lorne Hradecki’s beehive work on the honey and wax. 

PRINCE ALBERT (TC Media) — Although he is only months into it, Lorne Hradecki already loves beekeeping.

Hradecki has started up a honeybee business just outside of Meath Park near his grandmother’s farm.

He got his bees the second week in June and quickly set them up in four hives on his property.

“I went through a training course prior to me getting the bee colonies and before that it has just been research for the last two and a half years, just trying to understand everything about the bees,” Hradecki said. His interest originally stemmed from the concept of getting into specialty crops — in particular buckwheat.

“It is an organic crop and it is also gluten-free and one of the special things about buckwheat is it flowers its entire life — from about three weeks old to frost — where normally a canola crop will only flower for three weeks,” he explained. “Buckwheat will keep flowering its entire life and its honey is sold at a premium and that is what got me into bees actually.”

Bees will help increase the yields of any crop — they can increase canola yields from 20 bushels per acre to 60 bushels per acre.

Not only do farmers increase their yields, but if they are bee farmers as well, they can collect honey and other bee products from the hives as well.

When the Daily Herald went out to the bee farm, Hradecki let this reporter get up close and personal with the bees, while wearing a white beekeeping suit.

After donning the suit, Hradecki lit a “smoker.” The smoker is used by beekeepers to keep the bees from getting mad at an intruder and stinging them.

He explained it tricks the bees into thinking there is a fire, which instead puts them into survival mode, trying to collect as much honey as they can before the fire gets too close and they have to flee.

When Hradecki took the hive apart, the bees were buzzing around, but none were out for blood.

The top part of the hive is where the honey and wax are made, he explained. The bottom part of the hive is where the worker bees, who are all female, make homes for the larva and feed them.

“They are the ones that feed the queen and produce the wax,” Hradecki said.

“They are the ones that have the stingers. They basically do everything in the hive and out of the hive too. They go to the flowers, they collect the pollen, they collect the propolis, they collect the nectar, they do all the work.

“The drones, those are the males, their sole responsibility is to mate with other queens in the area,” he added.

The drone will congregate on hot days, waiting for a queen to come along. Once a queen is there, she flies high into the atmosphere and the drones follow, he said. The strongest will survive and get to mate.

Each colony has only one queen and if there is more than one they will fight to the death.

The only time there is more than one queen is if the bees are getting ready to swarm — then the queen and about half the bees will leave the hive to create their own colony.

Hradecki’s first summer with the bees has been very interesting.

“There are a quarter of a million bees there and I worry about every one of them,” he laughed. “Sometimes it feels overwhelming.”

Hradecki has a mentor in Saskatoon, where he currently lives, who has been a beekeeper for 41 years.

“For someone who can tell you everything you need to know about how to make sure they are healthy, how to check for the varroa mites or other things that could go wrong with the colonies — there are several things — it is also helpful having a mentor available,” Hradecki said. “He is always there whenever I call and he can answer all my questions.”

Although his mentor can help with the bees, the one thing he can’t help Hradecki with is the specialty products from bees, such as venom, royal jelly and propolis.

“One day I was sitting there thinking, ‘How do I get venom from a bee?’” he said. “I thought you would have to milk it similar to a rattlesnake or something.”

He started researching it and discovered a way to create a device that would collect the venom but not kill the bees.

“Once I started researching into the venom, you start figuring out that all these products that the bees also produce that no one really collects are actually more sought after because of their health benefits and they are more valuable,” Hradecki said. “Of course, it takes more work to get them.

“It is definitely a learning curve for sure. It is hard, especially since I work during the week in Saskatoon and then I have to come out here on Friday.”

In order to collect propolis, he uses a propolis mat. Propolis is used instead of wax in smaller spaces in the hive. It is now being sought after for medical uses, such as an antimicrobacterial.

Another interesting product is the royal jelly, which is fed to queens instead of honey.

 

Organizations: PRINCE ALBERT, TC Media, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Meath Park, Saskatoon, Albertville

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