Jonathan & Mieke Engelsma and their 7 children are 3rd and 4th generation beekeepers. Jonathan first got started with bees as a high school student in the early 80s, when his uncle (a commercial beekeeper at the time) recruited him to help him one afternoon in his bee yards. Shortly thereafter, Jonathan started a few hives of his own, and except for a period of time in which the family lived in the Chicago area (urban beekeeping hadn’t caught on yet at that point) they have been working with bees.
While beekeeping remains a very pleasant family activity for us, it has also become a very challenging endeavor. On average, nationwide beekeepers are experiencing annual losses of 40% or more. Pests such as the varroa mite have made it very difficult to keep colonies healthy and thriving. Despite these challenges, we’ve learned that if you properly manage colonies throughout the active bee season you can actually “keep” bees here in Michigan with a reasonable measure of success. For us, that means being able to sustain our colony numbers year after year without having to buy replacement bees, and also being able to sell our surplus bees in the Spring to other beekeepers in the form of nucleus colonies or nucs (5 frame starter colonies).
Our kids are also quite involved with the bees, from assembling and painting equipment in the winter months, to working in the bee yard with Dad, and extracting and selling the annual honey crop. Beyond the valuable honey and beeswax products that our bees happily produce for us, we believe there are many benefits in keeping honey bees. For instance, it is a wonderful way to get close to, and involved in God’s absolutely amazing creation. Beekeeping is a constant source of joy and inspiration and a pastime that never ceases to inform us on the intricate natural order and balance that exists in creation. Beekeeping is also good for the environment, in that many fruits and vegetables in our locality depend on the domestic honeybee for pollination. Finally, from a parent’s perspective, it is a wonderful tool for teaching our children good common sense life skills.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.