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  • Norfolk Farms

It’s a Honey of a Job

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Joe Kovacs established his first beehive when he was only 12 years old. As time went on, he left them behind but as an adult, wanted to resume that interest.



Sweet Job!
Donna Kovacs uses her smoker to calm the bees as she opens the hive.

He and wife Donna visited Oxford Honey in the Burgessville area in 2013 and purchased their first nuc box, a half-sized starter hive with four or five frames. This was good for a small hive as there is less space to protect and it is easier for the bees to keep warm.


In 2014 they ordered two hives from Orville Zavitz which arrived in late spring that year. Their new business, Kovacs Family Apiaries, was launched.


Each beehive contains one queen, some drones and lots of worker bees. The queen, who lives up to four years, controls the behaviour and actions of the hive. Her role is to mate with the drones, and lay eggs. The queen is indispensable to the colony – if she were to die, the entire hive would die unless they could be added to another colony. If a hive outgrows its space, it develops a new queen, and a swarm occurs. One queen leaves with half of the colony and looks for a new location. Beekeepers direct the swarm to a new hive box, whenever possible. It’s best for the bees and the beekeeper who will inspect and treat the bees for any risks that they may be facing.


Drones have no purpose except to impregnate the queen – they do nothing else and die after mating. Any drones still in the hive are evicted in the fall by the workers.


The worker bees are just that- workers. They care for the queen and drones, care for the baby larvae, gather nectar and pollen and keep the hive clean, including disposing of any dead bees. They groom each other and process the nectar into honey. Worker bees, who are all female, only live a few weeks during the summer, although fall born bees live several months, over-wintering till the next season. The phrase, “busy as a bee,” is certainly appropriate.


Raw honey has living enzymes and is known to have many health benefits, including antibacterial properties

Honey is a wonderful product that contains naturally occurring peroxide: 3000 year old honey found in the pyramids was still safe to eat. Raw honey has living enzymes and is known to have many health benefits, including antibacterial properties; it can be used topically to help in healing wounds like bed sores and burns, can soothe sore throats, and is effective in treatment of ulcers and inflammation. Honey that has been pasteurized loses some of the health benefits, but still tastes amazing.


There is some indication that honey may also have properties against cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but this has not yet been proven by science. Donna stated that honey is still a sugar, and diabetics would be better to use bee pollen than honey.


The amount of honey a hive produces varies year to year and with the type of nectar the bees gather. Donna expects to see about 200 pounds per acre from clover, while wildflowers only make 100 pounds per acre. On a typical year she harvests an average of 500 pounds per year.



Donna Kovacs, holding the hat and veil she uses as protection while working with bees.

Donna and Joe have 15 hives so far and have a goal to reach 200 hives, each containing 20,000 to 80,000 bees. They have found that is it common to lose a couple of hives per year – a problem that is common in this area. Other problems that bee keepers encounter include a lack of food sources for the bees and varroa mite destructors – these external parasites destroy bees before they hatch, deforming wings so the bees cannot fly. Predators also affect bee colonies, mostly birds and skunks. Even bears have been found in the area on one occasion but were removed. There is also a possibility that the sprays used for gypsy moths may be lethal to bees.


Honey is stored by bees in the upper parts of the hive. A smoker is used to calm the bees when the beekeeper accesses the hives. It is used first at the bottom of the hive and then as each level is opened.


Honey is extracted from the cells – the caps are removed and the frames are spun in an extractor until the honey falls out. Donna uses a hand -spun extractor, but electric ones are available. The honey is then strained to remove wax and put into containers for sale. The cells are returned to the bees; the caps are cleaned and sold as beeswax.

Donna’s primary means of marketing is by using Facebook. This year, her honey was sold out in one week. A sweet end to the year’s work for Donna, her family and their bees. 


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