Clover Honey from the Dakotas

 

 (Ed. Note:  Ken Meyer practiced law in South Dakota until just recently joining the Family Business.)

Meyer Honey Farms has been in the honey business for over 70 years. The company moved to South Dakota in the late 1950's because of the abundance of sweet clover. It is this clover that makes our products smell, look and taste wonderful!


Jack Meyer Sr. and Irel Meyer's
First Bee Truck

A.H. Meyer and Sons, Inc. history began soon after Alfred Henry Meyer came from Switzerland in 1911 as an 11 year old boy looking for a new life. He and his father worked in Oregon and Utah together until they were able to bring the rest of their family to the United States. A.H. and his brother Gus, began their own beekeeping business, it was only natural for the two brothers to split their business. Gus took the Utah area, and A.H. took the Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana area. Beekeeping is a migratory business. A.H. continued to look for land that would produce the best honey. In the 1950's, he found that place in the South Dakota. The bees thrived on the abundance of sweet clover in these areas. A.H. Meyer and Sons, Inc. found a permanent home in Winfred, SD in 1964. Today, they add value to the surrounding community of beekeepers by providing rendering services.

 

This is my father and me (photo on the right) from this past month as we were supervising a crew of beekeepers preparing bees to leave from Mississippi and Louisiana to California to pollinate almond trees.

Family members working in this business other than me are my father, Jack Meyer, my brother, J.B. Meyer, and my sister Melissa Shipley.

 

Honey bees primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. 

An example of how to start a hive (colony of bees): 8:53 min

 

A short video that shows a little bit about bees, particularly raising queen bees. Our company also raises queen bees, but not quite like the women depicted in this video: 3:06 min:

 

 

A product from honey bees is, of course, honey. Honey is the only food product that will not spoil. Honey was discovered that was 5,000 years old in Egyptian tombs and was still edible. Our Howdy Honey is made from the finest clover. Extraction and packaging are done right here in South Dakota. We also produce beeswax. Worker bees of a certain age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. Beeswax is used for various purposes, such as cosmetics. We also offer our famous creamed honey made from a secret process. This delectable cream is most commonly used as a spread on toast or bagels.

The surprising fact is the beekeeper’s primary income is not from honey but from pollination.  

The $3 Billion Industry Powered by Bees: 3:47 min

 

Seventy years ago, A.H. Meyer went from Utah to California with the bees during the winter. A.H. would ride the trains with the bees. He would pack several barrels of water on the train to make sure the bees stayed hydrated. Today, bees are transported by semi-trucks.

South Dakota has very cold, harsh winters. In cold climates honey bees stop flying when the temperature drops below about 10 °C (50 °F) and crowd into the central area of the hive to form a "winter cluster". The worker bees huddle around the queen bee at the center of the cluster, shivering in order to keep the center between 27 °C (81 °F) at the start of winter and 34 °C (93 °F) once the queen resumes laying. The worker bees rotate through the cluster from the outside to the inside so that no bee gets too cold. The outside edges of the cluster stay at about 8–9 °C (46–48 °F). The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes. During winter, they consume their stored honey to produce body heat. The amount of honey consumed ranges up to 100 pounds.

Instead of us going to California in the winter, we send our bees for a vacation in California!

To ship to California to pollinate almond trees, there are many things that we must do. First and foremost, we must have healthy beehives. The almond grove growers want nine full frames of bees in the hives sent to pollinate. This can be difficult to achieve because the bees are not naturally growing in size in the dead of winter, even in the southern part of the United States. To help the bees grow big enough for pollination, we feed them through the early winter months with sugar water and also with pollen patties.

A second challenge in preparing bees to ship to California is that the bee loads are not allowed into California if border inspectors find that there are any fire ants riding along as stowaways with the bees. It's perfectly understandable why fire ants are not welcome anywhere.

Since fire ants cannot be on our bee loads to California, we go through a few steps to keep the ants off of our loads. The steps that I will show here with pictures include: (1) gathering the bees to a place away from their usual location, e.g, a pasture or wooded area to a staging area where we can clean any ants off our beehives prior to loading them out; and (2) moving all of the beehives off old pallets onto freshly painted, clean pallets.

Here is a series of pictures showing the process of preparing the bees to ship out: Next the bees are sorted out for size of hive while at the same time being transferred to clean, freshly painted pallets. Then the bees are loaded on a semi-truck flatbed where they are netted down for the three-day drive to California.

Once the bees are in California, they will be ready to pollinate the almond trees. Think of that the next time you eat an Almond.

Why Are Honeybees Important: 2:01 min:

 

Meyer Honey Farm Website: http://www.meyerhoneyfarms.com/history.html

 

Ironically, this program will be shown for part of Valentine ’s Day, February 14.  Valentine ’s Day is celebrated in over 20 countries for various reasons.  In Slovenia, Saint Valentine, or Zdravko, is celebrated as the Patron of Beekeepers.

AFTER VIEWING PLEASE RETURN TO HOMEPAGE TO REGISTER YOUR ATTENDANCE AND TO  MAKE A DONATION

 
Website Sponsors