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A Beekeeper's Passion

Learn about honey bees at Wild Creek Bee Farm and the issues that are creating a "buzz."
  • While Chris is very passionate about learning and caring for bees, he is also very adamant about bringing awareness to the issues facing the industry.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    When Chris Maxwell was four years old, his family moved from New Jersey to rural Pennsylvania. Surrounded by open fields with lots of wildflowers, bees and butterflies, Chris became interested in honey bees.

    “One day, I picked up a honey bee magazine in town and that was it. That was the day that I knew I wanted to get into the business,” says Chris.

    While Chris is very passionate about learning and caring for bees, he is also very adamant about bringing awareness to the issues facing the industry. As he describes what goes on at Wild Creek Bee Farm, located in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, he also explains the factors contributing to bee loss and how they are important to the human food supply.

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
  • Chris started out with a couple hives about nine years ago, and today he has between 300 and 400.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    First generation

    Chris started out with a couple of hives about nine years ago, and today Wild Creek Bee Farm has 300 to 400 hives.

    “I’m a first generation beekeeper in my family,” says Chris. “I have a three-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter that will hopefully become interested and take over the business someday.”

    In 2015, Chris would like the farm to consist of 1,200 hives. Wild Creek Bee Farm is registered with the Department of Agriculture, and breeds and sells honey bees and Northern bred queens. The queens are sold to beekeepers and commercial pollinators to pollinate fruits and vegetables for human food consumption.

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
  • A queen bee lays about 1,500 to 2,000 eggs every day.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    Bee facts

    Here are a few things you may not know about bees:

    - A queen bee lays about 1,500 to 2,000 eggs every day.

    -A drone is a male bee.

    -The darker the honey, the healthier it is for you.

    -For every three bites of food you take, one comes from honey bee pollination.

    -One pound of honey equals two trips around the world and one million flowers.

    -There are approximately 50,000 to 60,000 bees in a colony.

     

     

     

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
  • Chris explains that the winter months are a crucial time for the bees as disease becomes more prevalent, temperatures are colder, and stored honey has to last them through the winter.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    Preparing for winter

    Chris explains that winter is a crucial time for bees as disease becomes more prevalent, temperatures are colder, and stored honey has to last them through the winter.

    Varroa mites, a parasite brought to the United States in the 1980s, are a major problem for bees and tend to cause havoc on a hive in late fall or early winter. The bees need to be healthy going into winter in order for the colony to survive the harsh weather conditions and multiply in the spring.

    “In the fall, we’ll check for mites and take the necessary steps to prepare for the winter months,” says Chris. “After the first frost, we will look at the population of the hive, the health of the queen bee, and make sure there is enough honey stored for the bees to survive the winter."

    Nosema could also destroy a beehive during winter. Chris explains that if bees are unable to take a cleansing flight, because of cold temperatures, they could defecate in the hive and develop Nosema, a disease that’s most common in adult honey bees. 

    Chris explains that honey serves as a carbohydrate for the bees, while pollen is their protein.

    In winter, the bees stay warm by grouping together in the hive with the queen bee in the center. The bees shiver and begin to vibrate or buzz which generates heat. It is important the bees have enough honey for energy to stay warm.

    On a cold, winter day, Chris’s heat gun will read about 85 degrees Fahrenheit inside the hive.

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
  • In the winter, Chris attends seminars and gives speeches to educate others about beekeeping and the issues facing bees.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    Forage in early spring

    In the winter, Chris attends seminars and gives speeches to educate others about beekeeping and the decline of bees.  This winter, he will go through the Master Beekeepers program and enroll in entomology college courses. He also uses the colder months to build bee boxes and frames so he’s ready for spring and summer bee management.

    When spring rolls around, he inspects the colonies for food, health and bee loss. Chris cleans boards and adds extra boxes as the bees begin to increase their brood nest. Spring is when the colonies add numbers and the queen lays eggs. 

    Chris says the dandelion is a major supply of nectar and pollen in early spring when the bees need it most.

    "There tends to be a minimal amount of pollen available in early spring," says Chris. “After going through their stored food supply in winter, bees need a source of pollen in the spring when their numbers are growing."

    A lack of forage when bees need it most, during early spring and late fall, can have an impact on the population. The more wildflowers and native plants, the better.

    “Bees need diversity,” says Chris. “To me, the biggest things that bees face are mites, disease, lack of forage and the overuse of chemicals.”

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
  • More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, including bees, birds and butterflies.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    Education

    More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, including bees, birds and butterflies.  

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Ag Research Service (ARS), there were 5 million managed bee colonies in the 1940s, and there are only 2.5 million today.

    There was an average, annual loss of 33 percent from winter 2006 to 2011. In winter 2013-2014, the USDA reported fewer colony losses than in recent years at 23 percent.

    The ARS states there is scientific literature that mentions several honey bee disappearances in the 1880s, 1920s and 1960s.  Recently, the ARS and National Institute of Food and Agriculture developed a Colony Collapse Disorder Action Plan to identify areas where more information and research is needed.

    “Hopefully educating the public and its youth will help turn things around,” says Chris.

    In March 2014, Secretary Tom Vilsack created the “Pollinator Working Group” program to increase focus on pollinator issues. In early 2014, 3 million dollars was made available through the USDA to help agriculture producers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan for floral forage habitats with the Honey Bee Pollinator Effort.

    For the 2015 fiscal year, the President’s budget proposal provides 71 million dollars for pollinator health activities through USDA agencies, which includes an increase of 40 million dollars to advance efforts with the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal partners to identify and prevent disease, create better management practices and implement a communication strategy to educate the public.  

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017
  • All products are chemical free, and infused with raw, natural oils from plants and trees for fragrance.
    Wild Creek Bee Farm

    An amazing creature

    “I enjoy what I do,” says Chris. “All beekeepers put 130 percent effort into their work because when you realize what the bees are doing for you, you recognize they're an amazing creature.”

    Wild Creek Bee Farm also makes and sells raw honey, beeswax cosmetics and beeswax candles. All products are chemical free, and infused with raw, natural oils from plants and trees for fragrance. 

    To order products and learn more about Wild Creek Bee Farm, visit the Wild Creek Bee Farm website and Facebook page. 

    Date Published: October 2, 2014
    Date Updated: July 14, 2017

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