All winter long I waited for spring to come and, with it, my favorite honey: black locust. Well, that didn’t happen for us. Not this past spring season, anyway.
The spring rains, on the other hand, did happen — and didn’t want to stop. The combination of blustery wind and heavy rain wiped out our locust bloom here in the west-central part of the state. When my son and I made the trip to the state show at McHenry College in Crystal Lake, Illinois, we were a bit envious of the beekeepers we met from the northern part of the state. The somewhat later season up there meant that black locust was just starting to bloom for them.
But that’s how it goes some seasons. You win some, you lose some.
Capturing the Spring Main Flow
With the missed black locust flow now behind us, we’re concentrating our efforts on the main flow here in our area. Cooler weather pushed this flow back a bit, but it’s in full swing now. Dutch clover has been blooming for well over a month, and yellow and white sweet are starting to fill the roadside ditches and pastures across the state.
One box of honey sits on all producing colonies awaiting extraction, and hopes are high for even more supers filled with a decent crop in the not-too-distant future. We’re offering silent prayers for the next four weeks to be dry ones.
So, as I wait for the bees to pack more honey into the supers, my thoughts turn to all of the other good things that have come from this past spring season. The first that comes to mind is my family and, more specifically, my two boys. Both enjoy packing and selling honey, but in years past they didn’t care much for work in the bee yard.
The Next Generation of Dadant Beekeepers
This year, however, my oldest son, Charles, has really taken charge of the bee yard. I see his growing skill and maturity; I see how he is becoming a young man instead of the little boy I once knew. For example, this year Charles traded in his old bee suit and rubber boots from seasons past for just a jacket, no gloves.
When I was 13, there was no way I would have braved the bee yard without a suit of armor — never mind shaking off a sting to the hand as simply part of a normal day’s work. Charles attended his first state show this year, too, and I must say he did one heck of a job. He showed his old man that even if he doesn’t stick with beekeeping, he’ll be a leader in whatever profession he chooses.
My youngest son, C.P. Dadant, is now ten years old has come a long way, too. He has been instrumental in successfully catching swarms and increasing the number of hives the two boys run together. C.P. is witty, sharp as a tack, and will attend his first bee convention later this summer. I’ll be the proud father standing in the booth, watching his two boys tending to customers as I did in years past.
The Boys Take to Infusing Honey
Recently, I gave my son some of last season’s crop to sell. To differentiate themselves from all the other beekeepers looking to sell their crop locally, they decided not to focus on plain honey. Instead, they came up with a product they like to call Sweet Heat Honey, infused with the essence of fresh, locally-grown peppers. They use what the garden produces, mostly jalapeños, habaneros, and ghost peppers. They’ve got a real knack for precisely infusing each batch to get just the right balance of sweet and heat.
While stretching our legs between breakout sessions at the McHenry College state show, we swapped stories of successes and lessons learned with Rose Leedle of Leedle Houme Bees. She was kind enough to tell us about her delicious mint-infused honey, which sparked a real interest in the boys and led to even more ideas. This year, they’re branching out with several new infused honey products and will try to win a spot on local grocery store shelves. We plan on adding at least three new recipes to our line and, hopefully, we’ll inspire other beekeepers with new ways to market and sell their own crops, too.
As I finish writing today, I look outside and see the river water that was inside our shipping department has finally receded. The dried mud from the old Mississippi still sits in our parking lot, as well as the bee yard behind the plant. The little outbuilding that once housed my father’s honey extraction room is also a muddy mess. I use it now to store my equipment; giving it a thorough cleaning and a fresh coat of paint will become the boys’ next task. It’s been a long 26 years since I was 13 and cleaned out that building when a hundred-year flood came through in 1993, but I still clearly recall it’s not much fun.
But that’s how it goes some seasons.
The three of us want to wish you all the best of luck beekeeping this summer. May we all enjoy a bumper crop.
‘Till next time,
Gabe, C.C., and C.P. Dadant
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