by Kyla Hurt
For Gary Glaenzer, beekeeping started out as a 4-H project. Now, more than half a century later, he’s decided to sell some of the honey, calling his product GG’s B’s Honey.
Some free time has allowed Glaenzer to the opportunity to become more active with his bees; he retired in 2018 from a background in electronics. Glaenzer laughed, “I spent 48 years, one month and 17 days doing it, but who’s counting?”
Retirement meant escaping from the corporate culture and the option to return to what began decades ago in his teenage years. Glaenzer had moved to Jacksonville in 1970 to work for WJIL, where he had a hive right out there behind the building. Then, about 1981, he became more active in his beekeeping again with his teenage sons helping him. “We gradually built up to about 40 to 50 hives, but we didn’t do much honey production … what we did was, we would rent them out about this time of the year, take them up to Mason County to the melon and cucumber farms and put them in the fields to pollinate the plants so they’d get a better crop.”
“They would pay me the princely sum of 25 bucks a hive and I didn’t have to do anything except take them up there and go get them in the fall. It was great.”
Glaenzer had to ease up on his beekeeping when he moved to his current home because he didn’t have a place to put them at the time. “I didn’t really do anything more until 2011 when my second wife passed away. My son, Michael, said, ‘Dad, you oughta start keeping bees again … and here we are.”
Today, Glaenzer said you have to be constantly vigilant about parasites, diseases and pests. “Back in the day, you didn’t have any problem. You’d set a hive up, keep piling the boxes on and in the fall you’d take them off and extract your honey. I try to look in my hives at least every 10-12 days. After a while you can tell … you look at the front of the hive and if they’re flying out with a purpose … I mean, they literally zoom out of there … Then, sometimes in the spring, I swear you can almost hear them make a thump when they land … Sometimes they’re actually so loaded with pollen, they’ll lose the clump of pollen there on the front board.”
By watching the bees, said Glaenzer, one could learn how they’re faring. Still, the big differences from when he began with beekeeping are all those parasites, etcetera. “The varroa mite can decimate a hive pretty quickly; that’s what decimated some of my hives last winter,” added Glaenzer.
Each hive has 10 frames and then is topped with another 10-frame hive. Glaenzer uses mostly medium (6 5/8 inches deep) and deep (9 5/8 inches deep) hives. One deep hive full of honey could weigh 65-75 pounds.
Glaenzer has traveled to purchase nucleus hives from different states, of assorted hybrids. Additionally, he has had some gray Caucasian queens shipped to his home.
A queen costs about $40. “You used to buy them for $2.50, U.S. postage paid, in 1962. You used to be able to buy a package for $9.95 out of the Sears catalog, including postage; now a package will run you $120-$140.”
He’s up to 40 hives now and said, “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I hope to bring at least 35 to 36 of them through the winter.”
“Every time I open up a hive, I feel like I learn something new. It’s constant learning,” Glaenzer said of one of his favorite things about beekeeping.
After his decades of beekeeping and interest in bees, Glaenzer has finally decided to try his hand at selling. Weeks into the business side of things, GG’s B’s Honey is available on Saturdays at the farmers market located at Lincoln Square in Jacksonville and also at Just Good Trade on the square. He also sells beeswax and hopes to offer complete hives for sale next year.