Having a steady supply of natural, pure delicious honey is one reason the MacQuarries risk countless bee stings while making weekly visits to their buzzing friends.
But the beekeeping couple—also known as the Minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Thorold, and his wife, Shaunna—also have other motives.
“The whole idea of raising our own food and teaching our children, and empowering them” to do likewise, provide incentives for Shaunna.
“We live at a time when it’s easy to be disconnected from creation,” Ken added, “and there’s something really serene about being so attached” to the bees.
Still, he said, there’s more.
“The concern is keeping healthy populations of bees, and if we can put them in places where they’re protected, their survival rates will be higher.”
By watching “Hundreds of hours of YouTube,” reading books, and connecting with other beekeepers, the self-taught beekeeping couple has been very successful in creating thriving hives, housed in rural Thorold and Pelham.
“If people want to help the bees, buy honey from local beekeepers,” he advised. "It has local pollens in it and can provide health benefits."
Releasing naturally scented smoke from a special “smoker,” they approach bees in their estimated 17 to 20 hives on a weekly or biweekly basis.
The smoke reduces the insects’ distress at being disturbed by interfering with their pheromones, Ken explained.
The lower box in a beehive is called the "brood box," where the bees raise their young. Each double-sided frame of brood comb contains about 1,000 bees on each side, which work as a team to "feed the brood and keep it at the optimum temperature."
The upper boxes are called "honey supers."
"It's in these boxes that they will fill the frames with honey," he explained, which the MacQuarries then extract from the combs, keeping the wax to make candles and lip balm.
Currently in their fourth season of beekeeping, “We would love to find rural properties near downtown” Thorold for additional hives, he added, if anyone is willing to welcome them on their property.
“A colony can produce 100 pounds of honey,” he said, “in a good year.”
The queen bee lays from 1,200 to 2,000 eggs per day, which emerge about 21 days later.
“Pollen is their protein source and honey or nectar is the carbohydrate. They need the pollen for their brood rearing. They have sacks on their legs in which they carry the pollen. A raising brood can take 40 pounds of honey per month. If it rains for three to four days, they can’t go get nectar.”
Another challenge, he explained, "is keeping up with the hives. If they run out of room, they swarm. So we try to ensure that they have plenty of space by adding more boxes, when needed."
Because it's swarming season, if people find a cluster of honey bees on their fence or their tree, MacQuarrie urges, "Don't spray them or agitate them; call a local beekeeper like myself, and we will give them a new home."The couple can be reached at 905-325-3649.