Agri Lanes

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Hunter's Honey Farm can trace its beginnings of managing bees and harvesting nature's liquid gold for more than a century. Gilbert Perigo, the farm and family patriarch, began beekeeping while he was still in high school in Boonville, Indiana and by 1910, was using several hives to pollinate the family apple orchard. In 1951, Gilbert retired from teaching and moved his family to Mooresville, Indiana. There, he began what you find today at Hunter's Honey Farm. 

His daughter, Marian, married Max Hunter and continued the tradition. Their son Tracy and his son Ross, make four generation of beekeepers. You can be assured when you visit Hunter's Honey Farm that it is a first class beekeeping operation.

I visited there a few days ago on a Travel Media showcase post trip. What fun and so educational. This is a perfect trip for family. Kids will be fascinated watching the bees at work. There is a display hive in the barn/store where you can see the bees in a hive through a glass. The shop also offers honey and many other products we sometimes forget originate with those busy little bees; creams and lotions, candles, soaps, candies and other items.

Inside the store  at Hunter's Honey Farm

 Hunter's offers several tours. Our tour was so informative but would appeal to young and old. Emma, our guide, took us through the farm's behind-the-scenes operation. We learned about how honey is stored, bottled and extracted. Everything is done on site. The exceptions are the candy and the honey straws which is made with their honey but sent out to be produced. We saw the raw wax and propolis that bees make besides honey. We learned that bees are a lot like me. They don't like to be active in cold weather. In winter the food is supplemented with sugar water. Hunter's Farm has over 60 bee yard all over 60 to 80K per hive and several hundred hives per yard.

The hive inside the store    The honey extractor


She explained about the uses for the wax. Naturally the prettier sections are used in the comb honey. (I discovered that comb honey is helpful for anyone who had high cholesterol without the harmful effects of statins. Honey is an ancient medicinal product. It is a natural antibiotic if you are cut or injured. Of course, it is known for curing allergies. Remember, I'm not a doctor but check this out for yourself.)

She showed us the honey extractor machine and explained the process. The frame is scraped to take off the wax the bees have put to hold the honey in the little hexagonal compartments. Then it is put into the machine and then the machine is turned on and spun around and forced the honey out. They do strain the honey but it is raw and has tiny particles of propolis and bits of comb. This is the best way to eat honey.

Lanny, one of the bee keepers, took us out in front where he had a EZ-up screen tent set up. Inside he had a live hive open with bees buzzing around him. He used a smoker rather than wearing a protective suit. He explained, "The main communication in a hive is by pheromones, by scent. That's why we use the smoke to disrupt the communications. The guard bees protect the hive. And if they perceive that I am a problem, I might be hurting."

Emma holding a foundation

He used a hive tool, something that looked like a pry bar, to open lift out the frame. He explained that the frame is man-made. It's called foundation and is made of natural bee's wax. He showed us some worker bees and told us that "When she emerges from the cell, she is covered with hair has four wings, six legs, two stomachs and two glands. That is her equipment she uses throughout her life. The glands produce wax. One stomach is for her own use and one she uses for storage."

Lanny talked about the social system in a hive. He explained that there is only one queen and some drones, with worker bees composing the majority of the population. The queen has only one job, to lay eggs. The drone's only task is to mate with the queen. Sounds easy except that after the drones are thrown out of the hive and die. The workers, female bees who do not lay eggs comprise the work force. They rotate through four jobs throughout their lives. Housekeeping, nursery bees than guard bees who protect he hive and field bees who go out and collect nectar and pollen and bring that back to the hive. Housekeeper bees remove it from the field bees and store it in the cells, dry it and then cap it.

Lanny shows us a busy frame filled with worker bees

The pollen gathering is so important to humans. Lanny explained that over 75% of what we eat is pollinated by the honey bees. The bee population is still down about one third of what it should be.  

He showed us the difference between the pollen and the honey in the cells.  We even got to see the queen. She is a bit larger than the workers.

He showed us the brood chamber where the bees are raised. Many of the cells were open where the bee had emerged as an adult. In the bottom of some of the cells we could see the royal jelly as a white dot in the bottom of the cell. The average brooding time for a worker is 21 days, 15 to 16 days for a queen and 24 for a drone. The average life cycle of the queen is two to five years. The workers only live about five to six weeks since they work themselves to death.  Drones, who don't work, only last a few weeks.

If you are traveling with kids they will be fascinated by the bees. Talk about up close and personal, some of them had escaped from the tent and were buzzing around trying to get back in. The one in the header was just about a foot away from me when I photographed her. None of us got stung except Lanny who did get one sting when a bee flew up his shirt sleeve.

Rolling the candle The finished product

Next stop we went inside to create our own bee products. First we made a beeswax candle by rolling a thing sheet of bees wax around a wick. Then we moved into the bottling room and bottled our own little bear jar of nature's purest food, honey.

Bottling our own jars of honey

Hunter's also has a 65 acre hardwood forest and a Christmas tree farm. They also offer tours of these seasonally.

Bees are interesting, Honey is delicious. It's a natural win-win tour. Lanny summed it up well. "Out of everything God had created, outside of humans, I think they are number one because everything even down to the venom, everything they create is beneficial to us."

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