I am a beekeeper, but the truth is that beekeeping did not come naturally. When someone gifted me with a hive about seven years ago, I spent the first year being terrified every time I opened it. Honey bees pick up very quickly on a beekeeper’s fear, so I knew I had to get over it.
When I started talking to my bees, I started to relax. Then I started to listen. They were talking back through their buzzing. Over the course of many conversations, my bees wrapped their tiny legs around my heart. Today I talk to them every chance I get.
Being a beekeeper brings you into direct contact with nature. You start looking at the world like a bee, seeing flowering plants and insects like you’ve never seen them before. The weather becomes super important. You know just by looking at the sky if it’s a good day to fly.
Beekeeping has also brought me closer to the land. I maintain about 50 hives, so I need good agricultural landscapes for my bees. The five farms around Champaign-Urbana where most of my bees reside are organic or natural farms far from conventional corn fields and deadly pesticides. Like me, the farmers on these farms take pleasure in observing their bustling little charges at work among the flowers.
My company is called Second Nature Honey, and gourmet-infused honey has been my main product. Chocolate honey is my most popular flavor, followed by honey infused with chamomile or hibiscus flowers.
This year I am partnering with Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch to implement a USDA grant to capture varietal honeys. I work closely with the Curtis beekeeper, Rachel Coventry, to improve pollination. We use a microscope to examine pollen in honey to determine which plants they prefer to pollinate.
I love to teach beekeeping. I teach at Parkland and at Common Ground Food Co-op. Parkland is a great place to connect with beginning beekeepers and help them get started. My students’ enthusiasm for the bees keeps me going!
Maggie Wachter is a master beekeeper and a certified honey judge. Her goal is happy, healthy hives all year long. Maggie’s expertise has led her into “Second Nature Honey”, an award-winning local business that specializes in gourmet honeys and mead making. Her beekeeping is based entirely on sustainable and natural principles.
Check out Maggie Wachter’s bee classes in the 505, Community Education’s summer class listing.