I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
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Where bees go for the winter
By Barry Schrader.................................December
Originally a carpenter by trade, Bock began part-time
in the apple business back in the 1960s at the Waterman orchard,
then married into the family in 1973. Now he and his wife Kathy
are in charge of a 3,000-tree orchard operation and a honey business
as an offshoot of the fruit production.
This column might seem out of season, as there are no bees
outside collecting nectar from our flowers or orchards, and the
honey is all removed now from hives and on store shelves.
But have you ever wondered where the little creatures
go for the winter Florida maybe, or even inside a warm
I had meant to find a local beekeeper
all summer and write this column earlier, but it took until November
to finally make contact with Steve Bock, owner of Honey Hill
Orchards near Waterman for the facts I needed. He was all done
picking apples during the fall, has closed down the familys
rural barn store and sold all the honey produced this season.
So we had time to talk.
Bee keeper Steve Bock poses with his demonstration hive
inside the orchard's sales barn
bees are a necessary part of orchards, as they are needed to
pollinate and there are not enough left in the wild to do the
job. Ideally, it takes one hive (a colony of 30,000 bees) for
each acre of apples. Bock has had as many as 25 hives at one
time and is now down to 14. Bock said he can invite other beekeepers
in the area to bring in their hives, or might have to rent hives
from commercial bee producers when the need is the greatest
for about three weeks in the spring.
Bock's bees can provide about 2,000 pounds of honey, which is
sold as natural, raw and unpasteurized.
There is one queen bee in each hive, which can be purchased for
between $18 and $25. She will live about three or four years
and can lay 2,000 eggs in a day or 3 million or more in a lifetime.
The worker bees, on the other hand, can wear out their wings
in six weeks of forays out to collect nectar and work themselves
to death as Bock puts it. But the workers born in the fall
often can survive the winter and enjoy a summer of flying and
caring for the queen.
During the winter, they
lay low in their hives and live on the honey left over from the
summer. Bee keepers know they must leave an adequate honey supply
in each hive to keep their swarms fed through the colder months,
when the bees only venture outside to cleanse themselves
when temperatures reach the 40s or higher. Typically a hive will
drop to 15,000 or 20,000 bees that survive those freezing months.
The wooden hives last up to 15 years, Bock said, and now with
the introduction of plastic frames and bases the boxes will last
Raising bees also involves making
sure they are kept free of mites and diseases. Bock said mites
are the biggest culprits in a hive, especially the varroa and
tracheal varieties, which can devastate a colony.
left me with the same message he delivers to the many elementary
school classes that tour the orchard each fall. Bees are your
friends, and if they disappear, the worlds food supply
will diminish by one-fourth to one-third. So, the next time I
spot a bee buzzing around our backyard flowers, I will give it
plenty of space and time to finish collecting the nectar and
pollinating the flowers. Its job is much more important than
me picking a few flowers for a vase on the table.
After reading last weeks column on the Kishwaukee River,
Edward Hinchliff Eggers e-mailed me to clarify that the Kishwaukees
north and south branches meet near Cherry Valley, but then flow
westerly for another 10 miles before emptying into the Rock River,
about a mile south of the Rockford Airport. He said if canoeing,
one can get out at the Edward Hinchliff Forest Preserve about
a block upstream from the mouth of the Kish. Thanks for sharing
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115