I left a couple of photos out of last week’s Bowling Green, Missouri Amish collection. Here are shots of an Amish beekeeper’s facilities, and the happy end-product (courtesy of Beth Russo, thank you Beth).  First, the hives:

amish beekeeperThese hives are located on the Hilty farm, known as Hilty’s Bee Yard.  In addition to regular pure honey, Hilty’s sell Raspberry-flavored Honey (see below), Buckwheat Honey, and Wildflower Honey.  How they differ in terms of flavor or healthiness I do not know.  Any honey aficionados out there your input is welcome.

amish honeyThe sweet stuff.  Hilty’s also does a variety of jams as you can see.  Personally I am quite partial to rhubarb in anything, but I know some that really dislike it.  In case you were wondering, rhubarb in Polish is “rabarbar”.  Poles don’t eat as much of it as the Amish do, but you see it occasionally.

Though I love honey, I do not know much about the guys that make it.  So I decided to do a little research.

Amish farmer David Kline, in his book Scratching the Woodchuck, writes a bit about our buzzy friends:  “Bees also live through the winter, but they do it in the warmth of a colony of their kin inside a beehive or a hollow tree.  Feeding on stored honey, bees form a cluster whose center may be quite warm.  By constantly moving from the outside edge of the cluster toward the center and then back out, all the bees have a chance of finding warmth.”

Doesn’t sound like a way to get much winter sleep to me, but you do what you gotta do.  Also, bees are helpful weather prognosticators.  As David shares, “Shorter-term forecasters are bees: when they’re all heading toward their hives, rain can be expected within thirty minutes.”

I’ll be honest, the thing that most fascinates me about bees are these crazy photos you see of people wearing beards or bodysuits made of bees.  I think you know what I am talking about but here is an old-timey photo of one:

bee beard

The Ordnung requires a minimum 10,000 bees per beard

Hey, that guy could be Amish.  This is actually bee master L.E. Snelgrove, from his book Swarming, Its Control and Prevention.  Looks like a heavy beard!  For that matter, the world record for bees on a body is apparently 350,000, weighing 39.7kg, about 87.5 lbs (!)

And since I’ll probably never have another excuse to post this photo, let’s do one more.  This is apparently “only” 27 kg (58.5 lb) of bees:

bee suit

“Bee-bearders” place the queen bee in a container which they wear under their chin.  I am no beeologist but imprisoning the queen and then inviting hundreds of thousands of the queen’s minions to frolic on your face seems like playing with fire to me.  But apparently bees do not typically sting while swarming, because they’re full of delicious honey, or something.  Let’s hope not.

For me, I’ll stick with the honey.  If anyone has tried Hilty’s stuff (or other Amish honey, for that matter), would love to hear about it.

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Photo credit: Snelgrove; bee suit-Max Westby

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