An Apiarist and His Bees

A couple of weeks ago Ralph and I took a friend of mine, who was visiting us, to go chat with Art Salatin, (Joel’s brother) about his bees.  She has just acquired a couple of hives and had some questions for him about how he raises his.  I’m not sure I understand all the lingo they used, so for the bee knowledgeable out there pardon my freedom of talking about something I know little about.


To start out with, I had never been up close to bee hives before, but knew we should probably wear long pants and sleeves (how that was going to protect us from bee stings I wasn’t sure, but we didn’t have bee suits…!), so even though it was about 90 degrees we donned our “bee clothes” and headed over to Polyface.

When we arrived my friend and Art talked a bit about some issues she was having with her hives and some of the important things he looked for in his.  Then they put on hats w/veils and went to one of the hives to check on the progress of the drones, etc.  Ralph and I stayed back until Art said that we could come closer and look too.  We didn’t go too close, as I didn’t want Ralph to get stung, but by the time we went to the next hive I was so intrigued that we got quite close and Ralph tried to pick at the bees like he does with flies!  The only thing that helped me keep my calm was the fact that we had a remedy for a sting right there: honey!


The whole experience was amazing, especially watching Art gently pull out the trays covered in bees and dripping with honey.  They were so calm (he didn’t even have to use smoke), and just continued with their work as if nothing unusual were going on.  Then, when I didn’t think it could get any better, Art scrapped off some of the bees and then scrapped off a bit of comb and honey (that had built up over the edge), and handed it to us to try.  Oh. My.  I thought I had put a small piece of heaven in my mouth!  What a wonderful taste fresh honey is, Ralph thought so too.  He wasn’t so sure when I first put it in his mouth, but almost immediately he started asking for more.  🙂   All the scripture about honey now means so much more to me.

Are there any bee keepers out there?  What is your favorite thing about these wonderful creatures?

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.
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5 Responses to An Apiarist and His Bees

  1. Scott Peets says:

    Bees are amazing!! I started with them a couple years ago and was fully intrigued like you were the first time I got close and handled them for the first time. I also relate to the tasting of honey right from the comb. I don’t know if you go to see the bees do the wiggle dance which is there way of communicating directions to a food source they found to the other gatherers. This is one of my favorite sites. I also like the searching for the queen.

  2. Amanda says:

    We just started keeping bees! We are still stuck in suburbia, but hoping to farm someday soon. We thought bees would be a good way for us to learn, and begin to sell something. It has been incredible learning about such fascinating creatures! Beekeeping has been my farmers-wife-to-be job 🙂

    • Erin Phelan says:

      How fun, sounds like a great start up project. Love your dream of “farmers-wife-to-be”!

  3. Lisa says:

    We’re in the city, and I’m on my third hive. We too are dreaming of moving out to more acres, but for now we keep bees for livestock, maybe chickens next year. Anyhow, Art doesn’t seem to have a queen excluder in the supers. How does he keep the queen out of there? Homegrown honey is the best! Glad you got to try some.

    • Erin Phelan says:

      That’s great, Lisa. It’s a good idea to do something, but to keep it small in the beginning. Not sure about the queen, I’ll try to ask him at some point…