Bee a honey to bees

JESSE Nodolf removes one of the frames of a hive to show the group its hexagonal combs.    Laura Lyke photo

by Laura Lyke
Green Lake Reporter

Imagine sitting down to enjoy dinner, but when the fork is about to reach your plate, one out of every three bites of food disappears.

This would be a life without the creature most people swat or run away from: bees.

I had the opportunity to join the Green Lake Association Green Team Saturday, July 11 for a look into the exciting world of beekeeping.

Marathon runner, basketball coach and local beekeeper Jesse Nodolf of Ripon introduced me to the life of a beekeeper — something I’d only seen on TV and movies.

Nodolf taught us about the complex life of honeybees — how they produce honey and how that honey is harvested for us to enjoy.

His movable-frame hives house thousands of bees that collect pollen from Wisconsin’s great variety of flowers and carry it back for the production of honey and beeswax.

Nodolf displayed his protective clothing and bee-calming smoker, both items I had naturally associated with the beekeeping process, but never seen in person.

One of the educational pieces I found most interesting (and alarming) from Nodolf’s presentation, though, was when he talked about the impact many pesticides have on the destruction of bees’ natural habitats, creating a global epidemic for bees.

On my drive to Markesan just a few minutes prior to the presentation, I admired a yellow crop duster flying low circles above a field.

The plane sprayed what I assumed was some type of pesticide, fungicide, insecticide or fertilizer on crops just a few feet below.

I watched the plane in awe, impressed by the pilot’s precision. It was almost like a private EAA show, swooping up in circles and then dropping back down only a few feet from the ground.

I always assumed that the spraying of crop protection chemicals was a positive agricultural process.

Protecting crops with chemicals can increase food production and decrease the cost of food, which to me seems like a good thing, especially when there are so many hungry mouths around the world.

Nodolf, however, opened my mind to a life negatively impacted by these chemicals that I had never considered before: the lives of honeybees.

Apparently some pesticides are believed to be a major contributing factor to the reported mass deaths of honeybees around the world.

Nodolf explained that some chemicals might be damaging to ecosystems and perhaps do not have a place in sustainable agriculture.

The presentation took place in rural Markesan at Tuleta Hill Prairie, a restored prairie along the south side of Green Lake that is now part of the Green Lake Conservancy. The group learned about how native prairie plants support healthy honeybees and then was given a close-up look at the insects buzzing and crawling in and around Nodolf’s hives.

I would hate to discover that nearby fields being sprayed with pesticides could prevent bees from accessing valuable, preserved areas like Tuleta Hill Prairie.

Nodolf showed the group the all-natural lip balm his family makes with its beeswax, along with hand cream, liquid honey, whipped honey and plain beeswax.

Items like these are great — natural lip balms and lotions are a favorite of mine — but honeybees provide us with more than these wonderful but inessential products.

It is said that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.

Most crops grown for their fruits (including vegetables such as squash, cucumber, tomato and eggplant), nuts, seeds, fiber (such as cotton), and hay (alfalfa grown to feed livestock), require pollination by insects.

Attending the Green Team’s event on beekeeping was not just educational; it was eye opening.

Nodolf and other local beekeepers put time, money and an incredible amount of patience into the art of bee farming, and for that I have nothing but admiration.

Maybe next time instead of swatting away a buzzing yellow jacket, I’ll think twice and instead whisper a little “thank you.”


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