For more than 40 years, Pedro Lopez — who dialyzes at our Everett center — was an apiarist, otherwise known as a beekeeper. He maintained thousands of hives in tiny Reedley, California, a place known as “The World’s Fruit Basket,” a nod to the town’s fruit cultivation.
“I loved everything about working with the bees,” says Pedro. “I learned something new every day; the bees were excellent teachers.”
Today, Pedro’s nephews Raul and Rafael own and manage his farm, Reynaga’s Bees, and they produce hundreds of pounds of honey every year. Altogether, they maintain over 7,000 hives. With approximately 4,000 bees per hive, that means they’ve got a whopping 28 million bees at work. And boy do they work! The bees can produce, on average, 100 pounds of honey per hive, per year. And that gold equates to a lot of green: a 200-gallon barrel of honey is sold for about $1,800. There is no wealth without risk, though, as Pedro remembers being stung over 200 times on one particular day!
Reynaga’s Bees harvest their honey twice per year, usually in May and August. During the winter, they maintain the hives and routinely feed the bees corn syrup.
During the pollinating season, bees work from sunrise to sundown, unless it’s raining or very cold, and only live for 40 days. To keep the hive “alive,” the queen bee lays approximately 500 eggs per day. The male drone bee who acts as the father is selected from more than 100 drones — some dating pool! It takes 21 days for the egg to grow into the larvae stage, and then “nurse” bees feed and maintain the young with special food until they are ready to go to work.
When bees head out and find the flowers with pollen and nectar that they need to make honey, they report back to the hive and do a special dance to tell other bees the exact location of the specific flower patch they found.
Once the bees collect the nectar and pollen, they are ready to store it in cells within the hive. When the hives are full, bees create a wind with their wings that evaporates all of the water, leaving behind the delicious honey.
These days, Pedro stays busy walking the neighborhood and talking to people about bees.
“One of my transit drivers wants to start keeping bees, and I’ve offered to help teach him and get him started.”
He visits his family in Reedley several times a year and is all set to go again in March, having just celebrated his 90th birthday and 13 years on dialysis!
Isn’t that just bee-utiful!
April 22 is Earth Day and, just like Pedro, this year’s campaign is focused on bringing back the bees! Bees are essential pollinators and unfortunately, the world’s population of bees is declining. One simple way to attract more bees is to plant wildflowers. Visit www.earthday.org/campaigns to read more about bringing back the bees and other campaigns of focus this year.