Watch video: Meet the Geneva farmer who raises bees, sells their honey
Forty years ago, Larry Geddes ordered his first batch of bees from the Sears catalog.
Back then, Geddes says, you could order all kinds of stuff from the catalog, including chickens and some farm animals.
Geddes, now 66, is still tending bees at Perennial Pleasures, his 16-acre farm property in Geneva, and he sells the honey at the farmers markets in Geneva and St. Charles.
"The honey is really a byproduct of what I was originally doing, which was farming," he says.
With 500,000 bees counting on him, Geddes keeps busy making sure that they have enough room to grow and plenty of trays to fill. He is hoping to split one of the hives soon to increase production.
Bees mostly take care of themselves, according to Geddes.
"Once you get them going, you just need to give them space and give them frames to build on," he says.
Before making the short journey to his hives, Geddes dons a large, wide-brimmed beekeepers' hat with a mesh mask; he also pulls on a pair of thick gloves. He uses smoke to calm the bees before he begins to work with them.
As the hot summer sun glares down, he inspects the frames looking for the queen bee.
"Now they are starting to talk," Geddes declares, as the buzzing gradually increases and gets louder. He has been stung more than a few times, but he says the bees that he works with now are very docile.
His captivation with the small insects has not diminished over the years.
"They are fascinating creatures; they are a fascinating society. It's all ladies that do all the work -- they can make a male, a female, a queen, or whatever they like," says Geddes.
There are pear trees, peach trees, blackberries, sweet potatoes and watermelon on Geddes' property, all of which are pollinated by the bees. Depending on the season and what the bees are pollinating, the taste of the honey can change, he says.
"I meet a lot of nice people at the farmers markets," he says, and "they like the honey, then they come back and tell me that it's the best they ever had."
Many people buy local honey for allergies, according to Geddes. He says people who have tree allergies want to make sure it's spring honey because that's when the bees are pollinating in the trees, and the folks that have fall allergies like a slightly darker goldenrod or ragweed honey.
Chuckling to himself, Geddes likes to joke that the bees actually do all the work and he is just stealing from them.
"I enjoy the bees; they do their own thing and you get to enjoy watching them," says Geddes, who wants to make a hive that is clear on one side so he can sit on his porch and watch the bees.
"They are fascinating creatures. They travel the world to make just a drop of honey."
For details on local beekeeping, check out the Fox Valley Beekeepers Association, of which Geddes is a member.
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