CALUMET - A crowd spilling out into the hall came to see Algomah Acres Honey Farm and Honey House owners John Hersman and Melissa Hronkin give a presentation on beekeeping Thursday night at the Calumet Village Council chambers.
The presentation, attended by about 35 people, was sponsored by the Main Street Calumet Market. Based in a former Catholic church in Greenland, Algomah Acres has 50 to 100 hives in Houghton and Ontonagon counties.
To create honey, bees will suck nectar from plants such as crocuses and dandelions, place it in a separate honey stomach, then bring it back to the hive. There, the bees break the nectar down with enzymes and spread it across the honeycombs, drying it with airflow and heat.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Algomah Acres Honey Farm and Honey House co-owner John Hersman speaks at a presentation on beekeeping Thursday night at the Calumet Village Council chambers.
To prevent the honey from absorbing more moisture, Hronkin said not to pull the honey before the moisture level drops to 18 percent. Otherwise, the honey could eventually ferment. Fortunately, there's an easy way to tell: The bees have completely sealed off the comb with wax.
"That's a signal that the water level is good enough that we can take it out of the hive," Hronkin said.
They leave enough honey for the hive, taking only a surplus.
Bees can travel from 3 to 5 miles away from the hive to find nectar. In the process, they collect pollen to take back to the hive as nutrients; as a side effect, their journeys for nectar transfers the pollen to other flowers.
With the hives kept close to their house, Hronkin has seen many swarms, which occur when a queen and a coterie of workers set out for a new colony. While many beekeepers try to discourage swarms, Hronkin said they can be beneficial.
"Depending on what time of year it occurs, it could be a really good thing for you," she said.
Hronkin recommends setting up a 20-foot runway for bees to fly, preferably kept away from a walkway.
Of course, there's always the possibility of stings. But Hersman said unlike wasps or hornets, it takes a lot of honeybee stings (about 500) to cause a problem for most people.
However, allergies can crop up at anytime. Hronkin said she'll get some localized swelling from stings.
"I learned about mowing the grass in front of the beehive on a summer day," Hronkin said. "You put your helmet on."
Hersman and Hronkin harvest their honey in August, getting between 60 to 80 pounds of honey from each hive. In addition to the honey, they use the extra beeswax for candles, soaps and paintings. Hersman and Hronkin are also launching a meadery, a winery that produces honey wines or meads, to complement their winery.
Afterward, many in the crowd stuck around to talk to Hersman and Hronkin and sample some of the products.
Cal Niemela of Chassell has been beekeeping for about 20 years.
"I found it interesting that they were able to develop so many products from the honey," he said.
He was accompanied by his daughter, Anna Aho of Houghton, and her son, Joseph, 5.
"It piqued my interest more in getting into it," Anna Aho said.