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My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … April Choate!!!

April Choate (sonshine4u, #658) has received a certificate of achievement in Garden Gate for earning an Expert Level The Secret Life of Bees Merit Badge!

“My husband declared, when we moved to our property, “I want to have bees!” I was shocked, being that he was a city boy. Seemed adventurous and crazy. I was totally on board, though, because I knew the benefits! He took the short course at the University of MN in the fall of 2011, and we got our first hives in 2012. During the winter, the kids and I helped him put together the hives and paint them. We watched him read all these bee books like his life depended on it. I was so thankful that he wanted to do this project!

We got our bees and watched them build up combs and create their “city.” I helped hold frames while he checked on the queen and looked for brood. I cheered him on when the queen from one of the hives decided to disappear. That hive had to be re-queened … twice. But then the fun began in 2013, when we got to harvest the honey. Our first time harvesting was scary, but not as scary because we had helped our good friend, Joe, with his harvest the previous year. But being newbies, it was still a little daunting.


My friend Jan kept telling me that it was a really sticky mess and to be prepared to stick to the floor by the time you’re done! But the reward is so worth it. When that first comb was uncapped and just oozed honey goodness, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! When we had spun the first few frames and our 5-gallon bucket was filling up … I was more than ecstatic! It was pure gold! Watching it filter was something that I didn’t expect to be fascinating, but every part of the process was. When we were finished with all the supers, we had 7 1/2 gallons of honey! Not bad for our first harvest! I was thrilled!

Each time we had someone over, we would show them how it was all done, or if they were really lucky, they would be there to help with the fun. I had a farmgirl meeting all about bees and my hubby shared all his vast bee knowledge with the ladies. He brought out a frame that they could see and explained all about it. We played some bee trivia games, made lip balm with beeswax, and watched the movie, Vanishing of the Bees. While I’m not the head beekeeper, I do enjoy helping him out, and after reading all those great books about bees for the first two levels … I’m ready to beeeeee a beekeeper for real with my hubby. Giving honey as Christmas gifts was so fulfilling this year. The look on people’s faces was priceless!

I’m totally inspired to become more involved with the process. I thought I would be scared taking care of bees, but now I’m totally calm around them and love hearing them in my garden doing their job. Holding a frame in my hands with all those wiggling bodies doing their jobs is just fascinating! I love putting on the suit and helping out now. The only time I don’t enjoy it is when it’s super hot and then the sweat just pours down! LOL! This past winter, we lost both of our hives from the extreme cold. It was a really sad discovery. We had to purchase new bees this spring. It was really expensive. I’m hoping and praying that this winter will be more favorable. We also are looking for more ways to plant more flowers in the fields that surround our hives so the bees can continue to enjoy a toxic-free flower zone. I really am loving this bee experience. The honey is so good and I appreciate the bees so much more!”

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Congratulations, April on your family Honey Bee project! Your first honey yield was awesome and I bet it was delicious too. I have read about the possibilities that bees die in long extreme winters and no doubt it was a shocker to all of you to find that happen to yours. Hopefully this year will be different or you will find a new way to protect them should it happen again. Thank-you for taking on this important work of helping keep America’s Honey Bee populations thriving. So much depends on it !

  2. Oh that I wasn’t deathly allergic to bees or I would be bee keeping also. Congrats on your family bee project April- wow 7 1/2 gallons that’s amazing.

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