What’s the buzz?
A Waupaca County beekeeper was honored at the Wisconsin Honey Convention held recently in Waupaca.
Stan “Jake” Jakubek of Iola received the Appreciation Award from the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association.
“I was really surprised,” he said.
Locally known as “Jake the Barber,” Jakubek has been raising bees for about 38 years. He has served as president of the Waupaca County Beekeepers Association for the past 30 years.
His beekeeping started when Dave Marcy of Manawa gave him a hive for his cucumber patch.
“The next year I had two hives,” Jakubek recalled. “Now I have about 120 hives.”
A full-time barber in Iola, Jakubek considers beekeeping as his sideline job. In the honey business, he said you are a hobbyist if you have 10 or less hives, and a commercial beekeeper if you have over 500 hives. That puts his operation somewhere in the middle, or what beekeepers call a “sideline.”
He retails and wholesales his honey products, and, with the help of the Waupaca County Beekeepers, works to educate the public about honey and honeybees. The club has about 60 members from throughout Central Wisconsin.
“Our club is very active,” Jakubek said. “The members are very well informed, which makes it interesting. There’s always something new to learn – even for me.”
His entire family helps with the bees, gathering honey and winterizing the hives.
His wife, Judy, their three boys and their three grandchildren, are all involved in beekeeping. (He does admit that the six-month-old is a little short to do much yet.)
With all this help, “We get the honey extracted within a week,” he said.
“I really enjoy doing bees,” Jakubek said. “You have a lot of friends and you meet a lot of other beekeepers.”
“Once you get in it, you enjoy it and stick with it,” he added.
He said there are less honeybees now, compared to a few years ago.
Jakubek believes this is because winter kill and other problems have discouraged several beekeepers.
Overwintering is the biggest challenge for beekeepers, he noted.
“You just don’t know if they will make it through the winter,” Jakubek said.
After last winter, he had a 20 percent loss of bees, which is better than the 80 percent loss he experienced in the two previous years.
“Once you have to buy bees, it can cost a lot.”
Today, a package of bees – one queen and two pounds of bees – costs about $65.
Thirty years ago, the same package cost about $10-$15, according to Jakubek.
Bees do not go dormant during the winter, but stay warm by forming a ball.
“The colder it gets, the tighter the cluster gets,” he said. “Sometimes it looks almost like a basketball.”
Sometimes during the winter, the bees leave the hive.
“They have a cleansing flight on a warm day,” Jakubek said. “If they aren’t healthy enough, they don’t come back.”
Mites can chew on the the bees, causing weaknesses within a hive, which can lead to viruses, which further weaken the bees.
Beekeepers treat the colonies in the fall to help control mites.
“There are lots of organic products available,” said Jakubek, who has been using all organic products for the past 15 years.
“Today, lots of people are interested in beekeeping and are asking questions,” he said. “So beekeeping is getting more research.”
According to Jakubek, university research blames the lower bee population on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
“They don’t come back (from cleansing flights) and they don’t know why,” he said. “But research takes time and we have to be patient.”
One benefit of research at the University of Minnesota and other universities is that more organic products are now available for beekeepers.
As an industry, beekeepers are “trying to get away from the hard chemicals,” Jakubek said.
Beekeepers tend to get calls when people see a swarm of bees.
“If I can’t get them, I call a friend,” Jakubek said.
But, often, nobody wants to chase a swarm.
The old beekeeper saying is:
“In May, they are worth a load of hay. In June, they are worth a silver spoon. In July, you let them fly.”
“This is because, after July, they can’t make enough honey to survive the winter,” Jakubek explained.
When honey is collected in early September, he said the beekeeper usually leaves enough honey for the bees to survive the winter.
Starting in October, the beekeeper routinely checks each hive to see if it needs to be replenished with sugar syrup.
“This year, after Sept. 11, they made a lot of honey for themselves,” Jakubek reported.