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Honey harvest a sweet one thanks to bees

10/5/12      Antioch

Ken Johnsshows some honeycombs his bes Antioch Friday Oct. 5. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

10/5/12 Antioch Ken Johnson shows some of the honeycombs of his bes in Antioch on Friday, Oct. 5. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

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Honey bees by the numbers

Account for 80 percent pollination

Collect 66 pounds of pollen per year per hive

20,000 to 30,000 bees per hive

Queen lays up to 2,000 eggs per day

Female bees are workers; males are drones

Source: Backyard Beekeepers Association

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Updated: December 9, 2012 1:15AM

ANTIOCH — This year’s honey harvest was sweeter than usual, according to hobbyist beekeeper Ken Johnson.

Johnson is a carpenter by trade and tends to his beehives in his spare time.

“When I was a kid, I watched someone who had beehives. I was afraid of bees and I told myself someday I was going to try it,” Johnson said.

There were six or seven beehives in the field he played in as a kid. Now, it’s a hobby he enjoys with his grandson, Kyle Tepper, 9.

They care for 50,000 to 60,000 bees in the two hives in Johnson’s yard in Antioch.

“I do it to give Mother Nature something back. We need bees,” Johnson said.

He said he harvests between three and five gallons of honey per hive. He gives most of it away to family, he said.

“I think because of the drought, I didn’t get as much as I expected, but it was really sweet this year,” Johnson said.

Hornets are often confused with honey bees, Johnson said. He described a honey bee as “docile, not mean.”

Johnson is among more than 120 members of the Lake County Beekeepers Association, according to President David Bergman.“I know there are even more than that. Most beekeepers are hobbyists,” Bergman said.

People do beekeeping for a variety of reasons, Bergman said. Some enjoy the science of social insects working together, others like the local pollination and to support the environment.

Honey is harvested during the flower season. Harvest can be in spring and fall. The largest surplus in Illinois comes from clover, which starts in late June, Bergman said.

“Personally, I just harvest one time per year. Other beekeepers do multiple harvests,” Bergman said.

He also said the sweetness of honey is subjective and there is no way to confirm if this year’s overall honey harvest is sweeter than usual.

“Honey is made up of many different types of sugars and will vary in flavor depending on the flower sources and weather conditions,” Bergman said.

This summer’s drought caused problems for the clover crop, he said. Johnson may have harvested a different flavored honey made of early spring blossoms.

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