Honey's the Buzz at Waterville Bee Works

Toledo Local Features  |  07/28/2010 7:00 am

Dan and Bonnie Bollett live a seemingly simple life. Their stretch of land on the edge of Waterville has chickens, fruit trees, five pet deer and a trusty Weimaraner named "Roscoe". Their land is also where nearly 100,000 honeybees call home.

Waterville Bee Works, located at 6515 North River Road in Waterville, makes and bottles raw honey and other honey related products. It was birthed in 2000 after the Bolletts started keeping honeybees as a way to pollinate their fruit trees. Dan Bollett became interested in keeping bees while on a farm in Oregon, Ohio at the age of 13. A neighbor gave him a hive to take care of and what started as a hobby, according to Bollett, soon turned into a "hobby on steroids."

According to Bollett, honey flow starts in late April as dandelions start to bloom. It is this process that is essential for early honey production as the brood, honeybee embryo, start to develop.

"The dandelion bloom is one of the most important flowers for the honeybee in the spring. It helps them build the brood. As the honeybees bring in more nectar and pollen, the queen bee senses that and starts laying more eggs," Bollett said.

As more people use pesticides and insecticides as to way to manage their lawns, it creates a loss of habitat for honeybees.

According to Bollett, the honey business is being threatened by corn syrup and other artificially flavored honey substitutes. Most of the honey found in stores comes from China, Argentina, Malaysia and Vietnam but the honey is superheated and watered down and sold at a bulk rate. The Bolletts sell their raw honey at Farmers Markets, Whole Foods and local grocers for $4.50 a pound, depending on the nectar source.

"Wildflower" is a generic type of honey when honeybees get the nectar from multiple sources. There is Buckwheat, a dark, rich honey that only flows for two weeks. Tulip Poplar is another tree nectar source and Alfalfa, which is normally found in restaurants. Bollett takes the fresh honeycomb and puts it in an extractor which spins and through the use of centrifugal force collects the raw honey. The Bolletts have hives all over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.

"My honey flow varies from year to year. Last year was a poor year. We had cool weather and a lot of rain. I've put out 10 tons in one season out of 150 hives," Bollett said.

There are many health and wellness benefits to honey and pollen. According to Bonnie Bollett, pollen promotes strength and energy in the body and also helps increase resistance to infection. Pollen also helps ease allergies while beeswax is known to soothe pain from arthritis. Honey applied directly to blisters or burns acts as an anti-bacterial. The Bolletts make and package their own lip balm and honey salve that contains lanolin, Vitamin E and almond oil.

"People who are health-food conscious know the benefit of bee pollen and some will eat a tablespoon every day while others will eat pollen before undergoing a major surgery," Bollett said.

The Bolletts register their honey production every year with the National Honey Board, a federal organization designed to represent beekeepers, packagers, importers and marketers. The NHB helps connect those with other beekeepers in their area and tracks domestic and foreign honey production.

Dan Bollett also volunteers for the 577 Foundation as a volunteer beekeeper. The 577 Foundation was started by Virginia Stranahan and preserves the historic property at 577 East Front Street in Perrysburg. The "ecologically sensitive" area, houses a pottery barn, a log cabin, an organic garden as well as an outdoor beehive.

Dan and Bonnie Bollett can be reached at 419.878.8959 or dbbollett@embarqmail.com.