The art of beekeeping is the practice of maintaining honeybee communities to reap the sweet rewards of honey, beeswax and other buzz-worthy benefits. This age-old custom has been buzzing around for centuries and is key for pollination and producing gold-liquid goodness.
Honey is what originally attracted Allan Storm. “I love honey and always had an interest in beekeeping. But, I have a military background and was in the Marines for 22 years, so I was never in one place long enough,” says Storm. “ No matter where I was, I would always find beekeepers for fresh honey.”
When Storm and his wife Elaine eventually landed in Bowie, a neighbor who had a few hives ignited Storm’s passion to become a beekeeper himself. Stormy Acres Bee Farm now has over 30 hives that house native bees as well as bees that Storm has acquired during his travels. “I describe my assortment of bees as having a petting zoo of hives. I have European, Slovenian and Italian hives. I have this huge variety to help anyone else who wants to learn about them.”
To have a successful hive, beekeepers need to acquire honeybee colonies, which usually consist of a queen bee, worker bees and drones. Queens are responsible for laying eggs, while worker bees perform tasks like foraging, nursing larvae and building honeycomb. Drones are male bees whose primary role is to mate with queens.
Along with beekeeping for over 15 years, Storm has dug deeper into this self-proclaimed hobby. “I describe myself as an academic and have studied bees and beekeeping to learn about the bee’s biology, nectar flow and other things that I would like to know more about, but also be able to share my knowledge with others.”
The basic setup for beekeeping involves a hive, which is a structure designed to house a colony of bees. Hives are typically made of wooden boxes or frames that provide separate compartments for bees to build their honeycomb and store honey. These hives are placed in suitable locations to ensure a good supply of nectar and pollen for the bees. Storm has most of his hives set up in a central location with a few spread out around his land.
He regularly inspects his hives wearing a protective beekeeper’s suit, gloves and veil. When he performs his inspections, he’s monitoring the health of the colony, checking for signs of disease or pests, and ensuring sufficient space for the bees to expand. He may also need to manage the population by adding or removing frames from the hive. “I started thinking five colonies would be enough, and it increased exponentially,” he laughs. “I get more bees, I get more honey, but I also get more work. And it’s a lot of work to do it right.” Typically, a colony can range from 20,000 to 60,000 bees.
Harvesting honey is one of the main rewards of beekeeping. Beekeepers use various methods to extract honey, such as using bee brushes to remove bees from the frames or using specialized honey extractors that spin the honey out of the comb. Beeswax, propolis (a resinous substance bees collect) and royal jelly (a food source for bee larvae) are other valuable products that can be obtained from the hive. Storm says that each of his colonies averages from 40 to 80 pounds of honey per year, depending on the weather. Twelve pounds of raw honey equals one gallon. He sells his honey at local farmers markets and to local restaurants. Storm has even become a “honey sommelier” to instruct cheese and honey tastings.
Beekeeping is very rewarding to Storm, but it also plays a crucial role in supporting pollination and biodiversity. By providing suitable habitats for bees and caring for their colonies, Storm and his fellow beekeepers contribute to the preservation of these vital pollinators and the ecological balance of our ecosystems, all while producing delicious honey.