Sister Jeanne Karp’s fascination with honey bees began the day she was surrounded by thousands of them and didn’t get stung.
“I was with a group of college students in Oswego (New York) County on a service project to clean and repair a house for a disabled man,” she recalled. “We were all outside working on the house and thousands of bees were flying all around us. Everyone started running into the fields yelling and panicked until I notice the bees flying but not attacking. Then they all clustered on a branch of a tree next to the house.” Intrigued, Sister Jeanne started researching honey bees.
It took years before she had a hive of her own. Now a specialty medication infusion nurse, Sister Jeanne has a patient who gave her all is beekeeping equipment. It was all she needed.
“I spent a year researching — YouTube videos, classes, lectures and visiting a few apiaries. Finally, two years ago, the first bees arrived in the form of a 3-pound package, about 10,000 bees and a queen,” she says.
Sister Jeanne says the honey she gets from her four hives is “a great perk. They produce more honey than they need for the winter.” But she needed to learn the regulations for processing the honey, packaging it and selling the product. She found that there are few restrictions — honey is a natural antimicrobial that can last for years without spoiling.
“The frames the bees build cells on are filled with nectar which the bees convert with their enzymes into honey. I remove those frames from the hive, use an uncapping fork so the honey can run out when I place frames into an extractor. The extractor is spun with a hand crank or motor to centrifugally pull the honey out of the cells,” she says. Once she extracts the honey, she pours it into jars for storage. Filtering isn’t required.
As a farmer’s daughter and a Franciscan, Sister Jeanne’s primary interest in honey bees is to help the species return from recent devastating losses. Last winter U.S. beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their colonies last winter.
“The future of the human race and the planet is so dependent on these little creatures who help to pollinate so many food products for all the living CREATURES OF OUR GOD,” Sister Jeanne says. Pollinators such as bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we take, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Sister Jeanne says we all can do something to help the honeybee: “Please help me help the human race and the planet by planting bee friendly flowers and restraining from using chemicals harmful to bees!”