BELLVILLE — It is a bit disconcerting to eat one’s peanut cluster ice cream inside the Locust Corners Bulk Food & Deli Store knowing that, just a few feet from your chair, there are around 15,000 European honeybees buzzing around.
They can’t be heard due to being contained within glass panels connected by wooden frames, but the hard work they do — including their best to make new honeycomb and produce honey — is easily visible. After a while one gets used to the bees and their flurry of activity within the framed enclosure, what is called an “observation hive.” They become an almost soothing presence, the human knowing that as hard as he or she works, there is an animal that works literally non-stop — especially during the summer.
The bees inside the hive belong to Locust Corners owner Wesley Good, who owns eight regular-size hives that thrive on the hill that is part of his property near the store. The wooden-framed “observation hive” is owned by a friend of Good’s, Dave Hostetler, a teacher for a private school in Holmes County. It has airholes so the bees — mainly female worker bees — are plenty oxygenated as they do their busy stuff, which includes foraging for nectar and pollen. They also create some glistening honey to feast on.
Hostetler stations the observation hive in his school during the academic year. But the past two summers, he has lent it to Good to give dry goods customers a topic of conversation as they wait on their deli cheeses, meats and ice cream.
Since it was a Friday afternoon and hot outside, the bees were very active and abuzz with movement. In the morning, when it’s cooler, they slow down somewhat.
“In the summer they only live for about six weeks,” Good said of the female worker bees. “They work themselves to death. In the winter, they can live for a few months because they have slowed down.”
The bees make use of plastic tubing that comes in through a hole in the wall and connects the outside world with the inside world. Each of them is constantly trying to please the queen bee — who looks very much like the others but with a slightly more elongated body — as she needs food and is constantly laying eggs to keep the hive size thriving.
Right now, Good said his eight hives haven’t produced enough honey to cultivate it yet. That will happen later in the year, when he hopes at least 10 gallons can be produced. His regular-size hives have between 60,000 and 80,000 bees. About four years ago, when he had the most hives at 13, they produced about 30 gallons of honey. His wife currently uses locally produced honey that is a prime ingredient in her honey-wheat bread. It sells out just about every day, he said.
Good’s five children, three boys and two girls, range in age from 4 to 18. His two oldest sons, Theodore and Elliot, help him cultivate his hives. Good bought his first bee colony years ago from Queen Right Colonies of Spencer, Ohio and then kept buying them to grow his bee numbers.
But then, as often happens in the bee business and in the natural world in general, something unexpected happened. “A swarm of them just formed and moved away,” he said. But there is no danger of that with the observation hive — they are kept within their station.
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