Heart of Louisiana: Bossier Bees
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A lot of us would probably call the mosquito the state insect, but it’s actually the honey bee.
“This all started out as a fourth project of mine when I was in fifth grade,” said Billy Hummer.
That was 30 years ago. Now Billy Hummer and his bees produce 50 thousand pounds of honey a year.
“Each box we would figure is about 3.5 gallons, and a gallon is twelve pounds, so we’re looking at about 40 pounds of honey,” Hummer said.
All of the buzzing takes place directly under the flight path of B-52′s landing at Barksdale Airforce base near Bossier City.
“Here’s one that’s doing really good. You can see the white wax that they’re putting up top, that’s a good sign,” Hummer said.
Hummer and his helpers wear protective headgear and jackets, but they prefer to work bare-handed, without gloves. The strings come with the job.
“Just like office workers for getting paper cut, you know it hurts when it happens but you get used to it. For us, a bad day would be probably 50 stings, a good day would be 20 stings,” Hummer said.
Each stack of boxes forms a colony, and each colony has one queen. The queen is the one with the larger black body marked with a numbered dot.
“Right now she’s walking around looking for a spot to lay. She could have already laid up that frame,” said Hummer.
The honey bee is Louisiana’s official state insect. The climate here works well.
“Because we have great weather here, our winters are too cold normally, and we have an abundance of flowers,” said Hummer.
Hummer and Son’s Louisiana honey is sold in grocery stores in north Louisiana, and farmers’ markets and you can buy it online. It’s won a few awards over the years.
“The honey we produce here is more of a light amber to an amber color which is a more full flavor of honey,” said Hummer.
Beekeepers have to guard against problems like colony collapse disorder and infestations of new foreign mites. Hummer believes bees also suffer from a little misunderstanding.
“Honeybees in general are not aggressive, they are not trying to get you when you see them. If you are out in your garden or out in your yard and you see one or two flying around, they’re going to do their thing, they’re just out collecting food,” Hummer said.
During the summer, these frames fill with ripened honey.
“Honey is one of those products that doesn’t need to be handled a lot, so we tried to give it as little heat as possible and is little agitation as possible,” said Hummer.
Months of work by thousands of bees, collecting nectar and pollinating crops, create a golden, sweet-tasting treat.
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