FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — To bee or not to bee.
With the Rev. David and Joanna Coe, there is no question.
The Fremonters have embarked on a beekeeping hobby that they plan to expand. Coe, associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, and his wife, a nurse at Fremont Area Medical Center, began their hobby in April, but their plans to be beekeepers began before that.
"Joanna and I were married two years ago and we knew beforehand that we wanted to try beekeeping — so I started reading beekeeping books two years ago, just learn a little more about them before we started," he said.
They also took a short course on the subject.
David Coe's cousin, Steve Hasebrook of Fremont, helped build the first hive and has designed and plans to build future hives. The Coes got their first 3-pound shipment of honey bees (about 10,000) last spring.
"They're calm when you start a new hive," Coe said. "They don't have any honey or baby bees to protect, so they're not inclined to sting at all unless you provoke them."
The bees include a queen, who eventually lays 1,500 eggs a day. The bees start to populate quickly and over time that population builds to about 60,000 bees in one hive. The queen lays an egg in each of the hive's octagon-shaped cells and the bees begin taking care of it. At the same time, the bees start collecting nectar and transforming it into honey.
When the honey is ready for harvesting, the Coes cut off the white capping of beeswax. The honey goes into a centrifuge which spins it out to the sides of the device. The honey drains through cheesecloth, which filters out any extra bees or wax.
This year, the Coes harvested 64 pounds of honey, leaving 110 pounds so the bees could survive the winter.
"The books say you're lucky if you get any harvest the first year," Coe noted.
The Coes give the honey as gifts to family and people who've helped them with their hobby.
"It was a large process and involved a lot of people," he said.
The Coes are enjoying their hobby.
"I think it's just a neat way for us to be able to do something outdoorsy and natural and it's something we can do together — and it has a fun end product of honey to share," she said.
It also provides some lessons.
"From a theological perspective, you have an opportunity to care for God's creation in a way that needs to happen," Coe said.
The Coes have learned that there is only a third of the population of honey bees that there was in the 1970s. Honey bees pollinate a majority of the crops and need to be cared for, he said. One way to build up the population is to care for the bees, which are susceptible to numerous diseases.
Another lesson comes from the bees' work ethic.
"They work so hard and diligently," Coe said. "They already are these remarkable creatures that don't need my ministry to make them better. They put away for winter and have no instinct except what God gave them."
Coe periodically teaches Bible class for some younger students at Trinity's school. A fourth grade class is researching bees.
"We've had a number of courses on both the Bible and bees," he said. "They've done a lot of research and are working to put together a presentation on the bees."
The Coes enjoy going to the hive, kept on an area farm. They check on the bees about every week.
"They're a joy to watch," Coe said.
The hardest part about the project is waiting for the weather to be right so the Coes can visit the hive. They have to visit on a sunny day. Wetness stifles the bees. Cold and wind isn't good for them.
"We tried to open the hive on a windy, wet day and we lost a lot of bees. I felt like a bad dad," Coe said.
"We're still pretty new at it," his wife added.
Now that harvest is over, the Coes have concentrated on medicating the bees to avoid potential ailments.
The Coes plan to continue beekeeping.
"We'll double the hive this year and hopefully will continue to slowly work our way up to the amount we can handle," he said.
In the meantime, the bees are a conversation starter. A few weeks ago, Coe pulled into Trinity's parking lot. A man mowing the lawn stopped and asked about the bees.
"People always ask how the bees are doing," Coe said, smiling.
Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com