1235 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee FL •  850.942.2557

Local Spotlight—Nene Honey

Natural Times, April/May/June 2015

By Gretchen Hein

Keeping bees runs in the family. With beekeeping in his background, Michael Callen of Nene Honey got his first nuc—a smaller version of a normal beehive that holds fewer frames—and followed in the footsteps of his father and brother as a beekeeper about ten years ago. Together with his wife Shelly, their home business of beekeeping was up and running. It’s a family enterprise, Michael tends to the bees, Shelly tends to the marketing and helps out along the way, and his sister designed the logo.

Living half a mile away from the Co-op may qualify Nene Honey as New Leaf Market Co-op’s (NLMC) closest local producer. And as a honey consumer, I’m even closer because I live right across the street. You can imagine my bewilderment when sitting on the front porch of my newly acquired home the day of closing, I look up and see someone in a space suit walking around the yard of the house directly across the street from me! It took a few minutes before I realized I was watching a beekeeper in action, and boy, was I excited to live so close to beehives. I’d known Shelly and Michael for years, knew they were my new neighbors, but learning that they were beekeepers was…icing on the cake, icing made with honey, that is.

In my conversation with Michael I learned how precise bees are. Every phase of their life cycle occurs according to a very specific schedule. Eggs hatch in three days, cells are sealed on the ninth day, molting takes place on day 14, and on day 22 the bee emerges. Newly emerged bees spend their first week inside the hive learning to clean house, feed larva and move nectar and pollen to their appropriate place within the hive. On day 30 they spend their first time outside the hive—a week in orientation around the hive, learning to navigate, in progressive increments, from the outside world back to the hive. After that they’re ready to fly out into the wide world in search of pollen.

I learned about “bee space,” another precision fact about bees. Bee space refers to a 7-millimeter measurement between components of the hive; less than 7 millimeters and the bees fill it in with propolis, greater than 7 millimeters and the bees create honeycomb. Michael taught me the difference between brood frames and supers, and too many things to mention in the space of one article.

Michael’s love of bees was apparent. Pictures of his bees were spread across the table: pictures of collecting the combs and spinning them out, and of bees in swarming mode. He took me on a brief tour of the many issues relating to bees and beekeeping. We talked about how work is relegated within the hive, the how-tos and when-tos of expanding hives, of swarming, and the plight of the honey bee with regards to the honey bee hive collapse disorder. I learned how honey is collected and an introduction to the world of beekeeping, how to ensure the bees and their hives are healthy and can withstand the challenges of mites, beetles and other challenges to their well-being, and that they have enough honey to last through the fall and winter.

Friends often offer their land as a place for Michael to put more hives but keeping a close eye on his bees is important to him. He‘s attached to them the way a good farmer is to his livestock. He loves to be able to glance out his window and see how the bees are doing; he tends to each hive independently, giving them each what they need. Here in our neighborhood, we’re eagerly awaiting the email that will announce Nene honey is for sale. Michael says that won’t be until early June and unfortunately, I finished off the last jar in my larder about a month ago. Look for Nene Honey at the Co-op beginning in June. Early June’s not that far away I keep repeating to myself; maybe the days will fly by quickly.


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