Macy, Miguel, Ryan and Quinten with newly purchased bees to repopulate the three hives.

Pecatonica High School FFA and agriculture department are celebrating their fourth year as beekeepers.

The beekeeping idea was conceived, in part, by Ryan Barrack, who spent several years learning the process with his grandfather, who is a beekeeper.

The FFA and AG department applied for grants and purchased supplies, which now include three hives, bees and honey bottling equipment.

“The whole beekeeping thing is mainly for the learning experience, but a side benefit is profit the FFA makes from bottling and selling the honey,” said Ryan.

Last summer the group and the bees produced approximately 65 bottles of honey and recognized a $560 profit. This summer, they are hopeful for at least 75 bottles of honey, which is all sold by word of mouth and social media advertising.

“We’re getting a lot of honey so far this year, even though the bees are new. They should produce even more next year,” stated Macy Sager, FFA officer who plans to help maintain the bees after Ryan and Quinten Roush leave for college in a few weeks.

Although this is PHS’s fourth year with hives, all of the bees died last winter and had to be replaced this past spring.

The purchase was for approximately 30,000 bees to repopulate the three hives. According to Miguel Gonzalez, maintaining the hives over the winter is a time-consuming process that includes insulating the hives, erecting wind shields, preventing mites and ensuring the bees have enough honey stored to live on until spring.

Quinten, along with Ryan, Macy and Miguel, use a centrifuge to spin the honey off the honeycomb. “It’s a sticky process, but it’s good to see the result,” explained Quinten.

By leaving the comb intact, the bees will not have to expend energy and time next spring building the comb before storing the honey.

Once extracted, the honey is filtered through a coarse sieve to remove impurities like pieces of wax and then a fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove any remaining contaminants.

The honey will then be bottled by the students, with oversight by Mrs Lexi Hilliker, AG teacher and FFA advisor.

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