Weekdays, you can find Mr. Mang in the Delaware Valley Elementary School library, igniting students’ love of reading or delighting them with a live demo. An observation hive of honey bees has become an annual library attraction, and during particularly bountiful seasons, he’s shown up to school with a cider press and a 50-gallon barrel of his own apples, churning out fresh cider before his students’ eyes.
Come Saturday, Jim Mang has a new crowd to care for. From dawn to dusk, hive to hive, he’s buzzing about his acreage in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, where he harvests, bottles and sells Cherry Ridge Honey. We reached him in June, a couple weeks before school wrapped up.
FIRST MOVE? Looking at the weather forecast. On a Saturday, I’d probably be out the door by eight, nine o’clock, if the weather’s clear.
HIVE CHECK In the summertime, I could be out for 7 to 8 hours a day. Sometimes it’s just a hive check, sometimes it’s moving bees, sometimes it might be checking on queens, sometimes it’s checking on disease prevention.
WORKER BEES My brother’s the only one that helps me right now. Occasionally my son, he’s only 10, so he tags along. He’s got a used [bee suit]. I got a used one for my daughter but she hasn’t braved getting into the hives yet.
SUIT UP That’s the hardest part in the summer: those bee suits, how hot it is in those things. It’s like putting on winter clothes on a 90 degree day.
SMOKE ‘EM OUT When I go into a hive, I’ll have to turn off the electric, obviously. There’s an electric fence around all of them, plus a chain link fence. I go into the apiary where all the hives are, and smoke the entrance. That way, [the bees] don’t think you’re a bear, and they don’t need to start attacking you. If you don’t smoke them enough, they’ll just start bouncing off you and hitting you. Not stinging you, but just full force, hitting you all over the place. On hot days like today, they get really angry when you’re in there cracking those lids, so you’ve gotta smoke ‘em a little more.
ROYAL TREATMENT The queens are laying like 1,000 eggs per day right now. When you get 1,000 bees hatching every day, you see your apiary bustling with traffic, bees all over the place constantly, in and out. They’re going mad because the pollen’s out there, the nectar’s out there, and they’re just going full force.
CALM BEFORE THE SWARM Right around this time of year, mother nature is now ready to start the swarming process. The hive gets too small and you have too many bees, so the queen rears a couple queen cells, and when they hatch out, they’ll have a swarm; a portion of the bees will leave, which is mother nature’s way of re-populating the wild bees. So you take one hive and make it into two.
BOTTLED UP I could harvest anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds [of honey]. I have a 28-foot-enclosed trailer that’s been converted into a clean kitchen. I have two bottling tanks, two 18-frame extractors. I can extract about 200 pounds every 30 minutes.
PRESSING SITUATION Every now and then when we get the urge we’ll make hard cider from the apple trees. My brother built a cider press. So we use that, and use our own apples. That’s another hobby.
WIND DOWN I usually get something to drink because I’m hot and sweaty. Angry Orchard Hard Cider. That’s the drink of the night. I’m in bed by ten, I can tell you that right now. If I haven’t accomplished everything on Saturday, I have to do Sunday. Or, if I accomplished everything then I’m moving onto something else on the property: firewood, maintenance.