Darci Sanner of Upper Yoder Township ventured into the world of beekeeping four years ago and hasn’t looked back.
“The more I read about honeybees, the more I wanted to do this,” Sanner said. “It’s all or nothing for me.”
Sanner grew up on a dairy farm in Rockwood and said she always has been an environmentally conscious person who likes to keep on top of the latest “mother Earth” news, more specifically the important role bees play in sustaining life.
“I love to learn and I’ve been learning as I go,” she said. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”
To get her business, Summer Smiles Honey, up and running, she needed to obtain beekeeping equipment such as the hives and their components, frames, a smoker to calm bees, tools and protective clothing to shield her from stings.
She purchased her bees locally from Darl Susko, a South Fork resident who has been in the beekeeping business for 15 years. He is also Sanner’s mentor.
Sanner started of with one hive and admitted she didn’t have much luck that first year.
In fact, all of the bees died.
But she was undiscouraged. After making some adjustments, she is now up to eight hives, two of which are strong honey producers.
“There are between 60,000 to 80,000 bees per hive, so I have over 600,000 bees,” Sanner said.
Each hive can produce about 60 pounds of honey per year.
Sanner said if she’s lucky she harvests honey twice a year – June and October – but more often than not she has to settle for once a year. Factors such as weather play a part in honey production, and she has to leave enough honey for the bees to keep them alive through winter.
“I hope to harvest in the next two weeks,” she said. “I already have orders placed.”
To extract the honey, Sanner removes the bees from the frames and cuts off the protective wax covering the honey.
She places the frames in a spinning machine that pulls the honey out and then it is filtered.
“It’s then ready for the bottle; it’s 100 percent raw and nothing is added to it,” she said.
In addition to selling honey, Sanner opened a store last summer where she sells all-natural soaps, beeswax candles and a line of products called Wonder Balm to moisturize skin or treat burns. She also sells pollen and an array of dried herbs.
The shop, which is located at her home at 2931 Menoher Blvd., is open by appointment.
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