- Associated Press - Saturday, July 25, 2020

TIPTON, Ind. (AP) - Scott and Jane Fague have created quite the buzz these days around their 11-acre farm just east of downtown Tipton.

It’s only a natural thing to do, they said, when you share that land with over one million honeybees.

The Fagues created Hens and Hives Farm LLC about eight years ago as a hobby, and they also joked that there are a lot more hives left than hens.

“We only have a couple chickens left,” Jane laughed, “so we’re kind of out of the chicken business.”

These days, the Fagues mostly focus on the honeybees and maintaining the over two dozen hives they keep in an open field on their property.

It’s a responsibility that the couple says they pretty much have down to a rhythm now, but it wasn’t always that way.

“’Beekeeping for Dummies,’” Scott said smiling. “That’s actually the first book we bought when we decided we were going to do it. It’s an actual book. … We then bought some unassembled wooden-ware, and in the winter, we assembled it and painted it and got it ready.

“Then we went to bee school,” he continued. “That’s an actual thing too. We found a beekeeper up at Huntington that would supply us starch for bees, and so we got our first group of bees from a farm up there.”

The couple didn’t see any produced honey that first year, but Scott said they were persistent.

“We decided to add a couple more (hives),” he said. “And we bought a couple more the next year and six more the year after that. And it just kept growing from there.”

And last year, the couple harvested 1,100 pounds of honey, which they sell at various farmers’ markets but mainly out of their own front door.

“When we start doing the honey and extracting it, our kids and grandkids come and everybody helps out,” Jane said. “It’s a big help because those boxes are heavy too.”

But along with the help, the couple said they also enjoy watching their 10 grandchildren invest some time in the family hobby.

While the heavy lifting is left to the adults, the couple said the kids will sometimes help fill the bottles with honey and apply the Hens & Hives Farm LLC label to each finished product.

“It’s a great learning experience for the kids,” Jane noted. “It just becomes a couple of family days and everybody crowded up in a little greenhouse trying to do their jobs.”

A couple of their grandkids have even participated in beekeeping for 4-H projects, Jane said, earning reserve grand champion and grand champion all while working with the Fagues’ hives.

And it’s not easy work either, the Fagues pointed out.

It’s actually more like a science, they explained.

“In the spring, we have to go through all of our hives,” Scott said. “We have to do a mite check to make sure there’s not a heavy mite load in the hive. This year, we had almost none. Then in the early spring before the dandelions or maples have any nectar or pollen available, we have to feed the bees sugar water to make sure they even stay alive.”

Once the natural nectar and pollen producers (trees and flowers) begin to bloom, the Fagues’ honeybees can then travel in upwards of 5 to sometimes even 10 miles away to bring that nectar or pollen back to the hives, Scott said, just one of the many interesting facts he said he has learned about bees throughout the years.

The couple then spends the rest of the summer tending to the hives’ brood boxes, which are where the eggs, larvae and pupae of the honeybees are stored.

There are 10 frames in each box, Scott said, with each of those frames weighing about nine pounds when full of honey.

After making the honey, the bees then cap each frame with a wax to keep the moisture content of the honey exactly where it needs to be while waiting for the Fagues to extract it.

And while the couple said they still enjoy the work, they don’t know how long they’ll be able to continue to physically keep up with the process.

The Fagues are eyeing the potential for a commercial kitchen nearby so they can begin selling wholesale, but they both agreed that the task of actually caring for the bees they currently have is getting a bit more challenging.

“Right now at 66 years old, when we were in there last night and lifting 60 to 65 pounds of honey supers (frames),” Scott’s said, his voice trailing off. “… I think right now, it’s all just a lot. I think we’d actually be happier with just 15 or 16 hives, not two dozen. But I also think we’ll always have bees. I just don’t think I want to do 1,000 pounds a year again.”

But for right now, the couple said they still enjoy donning the protective garb and getting right in the middle of the action.

“And,” Jane pointed out as she began to smile, “I have not been stung at all so far this year. That’s a pretty big deal.”


Source: Kokomo Tribune

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