I wasn't always a huge fan of honey. I’d put a little in a cup of tea with lemon when I had a sore throat, but otherwise, not much. When I moved to Louisiana, I discovered allergies I didn't know I had. When I heard that local honey can help allergies, I gave it a try. Now I’m hooked on the stuff. It really works! The key is that is has to be local honey. Not the random stuff at supermarkets. So I sought out beekeepers who sell their nectar of the gods at local farmers’ markets. And I've been curious about the honey-making process since then. I have a great respect for beekeepers. They seem very brave to me; risking bee stings in the name of collecting the sticky sweet prize.
I recently discovered a group of beekeepers in Lake Charles who meet regularly to learn from each other and talk about beekeeping and honey making. They are informally called the Lake Charles Beekers. The group formed when Erik Fain, a newbie beekeeper, sought out other beekeepers.
“I was just getting started in beekeeping. I didn't know what I was doing. Based on my experience with animals and plants, I know I learn a lot faster from people locally who are doing what I’m trying to do. I wanted to get together with other beekeepers, but the closest clubs were in DeRidder and Jennings, and that was too far to drive. So I got names of local beekeepers and suggested we get together, even if just over coffee, at least once a month. It was just to get people together to talk. We’d pick seasonal topics and have knowledgeable persons present them. The most exciting part of it for me is just hearing people ask questions and talk about what is happening with their hives.”
Fain currently has only a few hives but plans to start more. One local beekeeper has over 400 hives. Fain says once a beekeeper establishes his hives, he’ll generally produce more honey than he can eat. “They either give it away or sell it,” he says.
Fain became interested in beekeeping because he enjoys gardening and he heard that beekeeping is a hobby that provides the most enjoyment for the least amount of effort. And he didn't want to buy honey. “If I have to pay $40.00 for a gallon of honey, it’s worth my time to do this.”
Fain says he’s been beekeeping for a year and has only been stung three times. He wears a traditional beekeeping veil, a thick shirt, gloves, and pants tucked into his boots.
Fun Bee Facts: Bees visit between 50-100 flowers per trip. They forage over a 3 mile radius. Collectively as a hive, they visit 2 million flowers and fly 50,000 miles in order to make 1 pound of honey. A hive can make up to 10 pounds a day, but this amount is seasonal and variable.
The Lake Charles Beekeepers meet on the third Tuesday of every month, 6:00 p.m., at the LSU Ag Center, just south of Burton Coliseum. For more information, email Fain at ef (at) gmlawllc (dot) com.
Photos compliments of Google Images.