Monday, October 04, 2021

Beekeper Jack

Beekeeper Jack

By Brian Bauer

photo provided

    Have you ever wondered what you would do after you retired and did not have your day already scheduled for you before you even wake up? Well, Jack Eckels is retired and engaged in an activity introduced to him by his father, beekeeping.

Jack is originally from the Laconia, New Hampshire area where he attended Laconia High School. He has a Mechanical Engineering degree and a Graduate degree in Math. His education credits came into play teaching at New Hampshire Prep School for 4 years. After leaving his Prep school position he and his wife Carol moved to Middlebury where he taught at Middlebury Union High School for 30 years. During that time they raised  a family consisting of 3 sons and 2 daughters. Jack coached Nordic Skiing for most of his stay at the High School and instituted the yearly Ski and Skate Sale held every Fall. Jack and his wife are now proud grandparents of 3.

Jack has been gardening for decades. He has the mathematician's preciseness about his vegetable rows and the weed less landscape incorporating his garden space. It may have been gardening, in part, that sparked the interest in bee keeping. Jack likes to delve into things deeply and would not be satisfied with just planting, weeding, and harvesting. He would want to know why this or that was needed for a good harvest. Retirement gives him the time to explore and research. He certainly would have found the topic of pollination at the top of the research list.

Pollination, in part, is caused by Honey Bees (the Italian variety is most common). When the bees move from flower to flower they inadvertently pick up pollen. Pollen is needed to fertilize the female flower parts so that apples and other fruits develop (owners of orchards bring in bees for that very purpose).

Through his research Jack was able to construct the boxes that the bees would live in, find colonies which were for sale, and search out appropriate sites to situate the colonies on. The colonies would need protection from northern winds, good southern exposure for the warmth of sunlight during the winter, and a good food source.

There are three classifications of Bee Keepers: hobbyist, sideline, and commercial. Jack places himself in the hobbyist category due to the number of hives he has and lack of income dependency on it.

It is fascinating listening to Jack talk about Bee Keeping because he knows so much about the topic. For example:

1.    Nectar is made by plants to attract the bees so that pollination can occur
2.    Bees make honey, as their food source, from Nectar
3.    Their are mites (parasites) which grow in the hive and suck blood from the bees
4.    Pollen is feed to developing bees
5.    Bees have wax glands and the wax is used to create and cap the many sided cells in which honey and developing bees are stored.

Jack has 2 sidelines associated with his interest in raising bees. One is that he harvests Comb Honey. This is basically taking a portion of where the bees have stored their honey (the Comb) and without processing it, wrapping it and selling it to his customers. The second sideline is candle making using bees' wax. The history of candle making using bees' wax goes back as least as far as 3000B.C. with the Egyptians. A unique fact about bees' wax is that it burns with a “clean” flame, unlike paraffin and it also burns with a “warmer”, more yellow flame than paraffin.

Beeswax is a product from a bee hive. Beeswax is secreted by honeybees of a certain age in the form of scales. The scales are produced by the glands of 12 to 17 day old worker bees. This wax is then used to build storage receptacles in the hive.

Since Jack has a limited supply of Beeswax he purchases what he needs in order to produce his two types of specialty candles: a 12 inch Taper and a 2 inch Votive.

For those of you who might be interested in purchasing either Comb honey or candles, the Middlebury Food Coop has the Comb Honey, in season (August-September) and the 2” Votive candles on a steady basis. The 12” Tapered can be located at Sweet Cecily.

If Jack's interest in Bee keeping has peaked an interest, an Internet site of note is the following: Also, the Vermont Beekeepers Association puts out a nice booklet entitled: Vermont Honey - Simply the Best!

Jack can be contacted at: Breezy Hill Apiaries, 101 Seminary Street Ext.,Middlebury, Vt. 05753-1257 or 1-802-388-6502.

   Emily Dickinson composed the following about the nature of bees:   Pedigree

        The pedigree of the honey

        Does not concern the bee;

        A clover, anytime to him 

        Is aristocracy.


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