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Bruha’z Bees Mean (Sticky) Business

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Cathy Bruha, owner of Bruha’z Bees, loads the honey "supers" into the extractor which will spin out and filter the honey for later consumption. She reports that the task gets "very sticky!"

By Kate Wolf

   Ord resident and local business woman, Cathy Bruha, probably has the sweetest hobby on earth.  As a bee keeper, also known as an apiarist, her hobby has grown from only three hives in 2020 to seven hives and thousands of honey producing bees in 2023.  It involves a seasonal routine that she finds pleasing, as well as providing honey that will last forever and handmade products that shoppers seeking quality are eager to purchase.

   Since 2020 Bruha, and her husband, Anthony, have been setting out the hives each spring and harvesting honey between July and September, depending on the weather.  Usually, a fall “dearth” occurs when blooming plants begin to die off, vegetables stop producing new flowers, and grasses turn brown.  Less pollen is produced at this time and bees become more protective of their hives as various predators or rival insects try to raid the honey they’ve worked so hard to produce.  Bees can get a little cranky about this which, as you might imagine, makes them more difficult to work around.

   However, studies have shown that bees actually recognize their keeper and are much more calm in their presence.  The keepers are also able to recognize their own bees and can easily identify any interlopers or foreign bees that may infiltrate the hive.

   Each spring, when the hives are set out, Bruha may have to purchase as much as $1,000 in new bees to make up for colony losses through damage or natural attrition.  The bees are purchased through mail order, much like chicks.  But you must be cautious, Bruha advises, because many coming out of Texas are “Africanized.”

   “Those bees are mean,” she noted.  She has found it’s much better to purchase bees from locations with a similar climate and conditions as those found in Nebraska, because the bees adapt better and are generally better natured in the spring when their work begins.

     Where the bees obtain the pollen they collect makes a difference in the quality of the honey.  Barley, for example, will result in a darker color honey and, while we are surrounded by miles of corn and alfalfa fields, these are not among the bees preferences.

   “They are very particular,” Bruha commented.  “Dandelions and tree pollen are their favorite, along with flowering bushes and the flowers in your garden.”  The bees will travel from three to five miles from pollen cell to hive.

   The process of collecting the honey begins when the framed trays, or honey “supers” as they are called, are pulled from the hives.  A box full of these honey-filled trays can weigh in excess of 50 lbs.  This weight is the biggest issue for Bruha, she explained, so her husband, Anthony, provides the necessary muscle.

   The framed honey supers then go through a process called “capping” where the protective wax is scraped off, collected in buckets, and saved for later use in Bruha’s own handmade bars, soaps, lip balms, body butter and other products.  Her natural, handmade products are branded under the name Bruha’z Beez.

   The framed honey supers, now free of their wax caps, are hung in an extractor, a large piece of equipment that can cost more than $800 brand new and is used to spin-out and filter the honey.  The honey is then allowed to rest for 48 hours in a container with a valve in order to remove any bubbles.  Sterilized jars can then be filled directly from the container. 

   “Raw honey is never heated, just filtered,” Bruha explained, because you don’t want to kill all “the good stuff” that naturally occurs in honey.  “You just want to filter out the stuff you wouldn’t want to eat.”  Honey is a natural antibiotic, has many beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, takes less to use as a sweetener, won’t elevate blood sugar, and has a host of other health benefits.  Bruha collected 16 gallons of honey this year, a somewhat disappointing harvest she attributes to drought conditions.  But then, every year is different.

   The empty honey supers are stored in a deep freezer over the winter until the process begins again.  A sugar board is used in the bee houses to provide an alternate source of energy other than their honey reserves, which keeps the bees going until pollen sources are again available in the spring.

   “I do enjoy most of it,” Bruha remarked about her bee keeping business.  “It’s the clean-up that’s not much fun.  Everything is so sticky all the time!”

   There is more to the story! Pick up the Sept. 20th edition of The Quiz!

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