Our hives are located on the edge of our restored native prairie as shown in the picture below, with 25 acres of native wildflowers to feed upon our honeybees create a very light and sweet honey.
It’s not an easy time to be a beekeeper as honeybees are dying off all across the country from Varroa mites, viruses, insecticides (Neonicotinoids), agrochemicals, and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). There has been considerable research to find solutions to these problems as honeybees are a valuable pollinators for many commercial crops, especially in areas where farmers have killed off the native pollinators.
Another serious challenge for honeybees and native pollinators is the lack of nutrition due to the loss of habitat. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields, pastures, and vacant fields are being plowed up to plant corn for ethanol plants, food for livestock, and farmers are getting more efficient in their farming practices resulting in less habitat for honeybees. Driftless Prairies provides a solution to this problem with an abundant supply of nectar and pollen from Golden Alexanders in the early spring to goldenrods and asters in the fall. In between, the bees have pale purple coneflower, yellow coneflower, bellflower, ox-eye sunflower, bee balm, black-eye susan, potentilla, prairie dock, cup-plant, compass plant, hoary vervain, lead plant, and the list goes on and on. This vast diversity of native plants provides an endless supply of nectar and pollen for the honeybees and native pollinators all summer long. Bumblebees, butterflies, moths, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and dragonflies are also thriving in our prairies.
Bees are fascinating to care for and to watch. The whole process of going from acquiring the bees to harvesting their honey is fun and intriguing. No matter how much I’ve learned in the process, there’s at least that much more to learn! If you’re wanting to see the process in action, I’ve separated this photographic journey into pages highlighting the key activities of beekeeping at the Driftless Prairies.