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Bee Biz Keeps Farm Family Buzzing
Bill Koelzer's first two beehives were a hobby. By the time he hit 50 hives, he knew he had become a full time beekeeper. After five years of work, he's now at 360 hives and still expanding. He expects to have between 450 and 600 hives by the end of the season.
"My father and his father kept bees," explains Koelzer. "When my father was considering getting rid of his extraction equipment, I decided it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I've always enjoyed the outdoors, and the majority of the work is done outside at the prettiest time of the year."
Koelzer Bee Farm does a lot more than just collect and sell honey. They also provide pollination services in Kansas and California, sell bees to beekeeper wannabees, and make a wide variety of honey and honey-based products including pollen and skin care products.
Their first alternative product was flavored honey. Then they started producing a hand lotion that grew out of a personal need. The skin on Koelzer's hands was breaking down and bleeding. His wife Teri developed the lotion and when it healed his hands, they began selling it.
It's a family affair with Bill's dad still acting as mentor and consultant. Their daughter makes the skin care products and her fiance helps when it is time to move hives.
"I am mechanically inclined, so I started making my own extraction equipment," says Koelzer. "Everything I know how to do is utilized in the beekeeping business."
Beekeeping can get complicated as the business gets bigger. Mites are a big problem, and deciding what kind of bees to raise is a serious consideration. Italian bees are the most gentle and easiest to handle. The Russian bees Koelzer prefers produce well, have excellent survival skills and are more tolerant of mites. One drawback is that if the honey frames get full, the hive will swarm and a large group will leave the hive.
"You have to always have extra frames ready or be ready to break the hive down to split the colony," says Koelzer.
It is these splits that he sells to beginning beekeepers or uses to expand his own colonies. Koelzer doesn't mind others getting into the business, In fact, he encourages it. He buys and sells used equipment and sells queens and entire colonies of bees to beginners. An added value is his intro lecture on beekeeping.
"People come to our location, and I open the hive and show them what they are getting," says Koelzer. "Depending on the time of the year and how big a hive they want, the price can vary from $75 to $250. Handling equipment is extra."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bill Koelzer, RR 1, Box 36, Corning, Kansas 66417 (ph 785 868-2014; koelzerbeefarm @jbntelco.com; www. koelzerbeefarmks. tripod.com).

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2006 - Volume #30, Issue #4