Lisa And Her Friends

Posted: August 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

The following was just published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. It’s an article about Lisa Yowell (who some might remember as Lisa Lowe), a long-time and valued part of the Terre Haute plant.

Parke County woman’s enthusiasm for bees waxing

Susan Hayhurst Special to the Tribune-Star

PARKE COUNTY — The license plate frame on Lisa Yowell’s Nitro proclaims “Beekeeper – stay healthy, eat honey.” The sign posted at the entrance of her rural Parke County driveway lures visitors with its message of “local honey for sale.” Her husband, Bryon, even had a cozy, cottage-style “honey house” built behind their home just so she can work on her favorite pastime.

Yowell is abuzz with enthusiasm for beekeeping. From selling honey and working with her hives to helping promote beekeeping at the Indiana State Fair, which wrapped up Sunday, she is an avid promoter of her hobby’s attributes.

Shortly after she and Bryon moved to their country home about seven years ago, Yowell read a newspaper notice about an upcoming beekeeping class. “I love nature, and I went to the two-day class and was hooked right away,” she said. “Honeybees are one of God’s miracles and they are so amazing. When I first got my bees, I was so nervous. I started out with one hive, but it’s best to have at least two, so you can compare how they’re doing. I’ve had up to 17, but currently have 11.”

Yowell finds bees “so fascinating” and enjoys studying them. “I’ve learned there are different colors of honey because there are different flower sources that determine how light and what the strength of the honey is,” she explains. “For example, buckwheat produces a darker and a stronger flavor of honey. My honey is raw, meaning it’s never been heated. Some people don’t know that when honey is heated, it loses some of its nutritional value and flavor. I love to share with people that honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil.”

She notes that honey is twice as sweet as sugar, so people cooking with honey should use half the sugar amount called for in a recipe. “One-fifth of the honey you add to a recipe is made up of water, so use less liquid in recipes if using honey,” Yowell said.

She’s also amazed at how hard-working bees are. “They have lots of little specific jobs,” she explains. “There are nurse bees, undertaker bees, guard bees and foragers. Of course, there’s the queen bee for each hive that lives about three to five years. Other bees live 30-45 days, and all worker bees are females. The drones’ only purpose is to eat and have sex with the queen and then they die. It’s an amazing society. The bees can even be grouchy, and I can tell by their behavior and buzzing.”

One of Yowell’s favorite beekeeping tasks is to get swarms. “Sometimes, I get a call about an available swarm. I love to go out and get swarms. It’s so cool.”

Honey is sweet, but the stings can pack a punch until you get used to them, Yowell said. She has built up immunity to bee stings and now is minimally affected by a sting. “The venom is like a vaccine, so you get a little at a time when you’re stung and you’re gradually building up your endurance,” she said. “You’ll definitely get stung as a beekeeper, even with wearing the beekeeping coveralls and netted helmet, so you just have to get over it. We’re definitely dealing with a lot of bees. There are 60,000 to 80,000 bees per hive in the summer and 20,000 to 30,000 bees per hive in the winter.”

Yowell’s emphasis on educating herself and others about bees spills into just about everything she does. While she works in the purchasing department at Clabber Girl in Terre Haute, Yowell spends her personal time involved with fellow beekeepers. She’s active with the Sugar Creek Beekeepers Association, a Parke County club, and she serves as secretary for the Indiana State Beekeepers Association. Yowell has judged the beekeeping projects for the Vigo County Fair the last few years.

She never considered entering her own honey in a fair until this summer. “I did enter the Parke County open class competition with my honey and won a blue ribbon in the light class and the grand champion overall. It was fun to receive ribbons and a plaque.”

Yowell is committed to helping at the state Beekeepers Association booth in the Ag/Hort building at the Indiana State Fair each year. She believes the state fair is an opportunity to educate the public about beekeeping and honey. “It’s a great place to talk with people about the bees, especially when issues hit the news, like when the colony collapse disorder was so prevalent a few years. It’s a very busy place, but I get to see fellow beekeepers, learn more about what I do, and answer questions about bees. There’s also a good educational video shown in the Ag/Hort building, and the Indiana State Beekeepers Association has frequently had an encased live hive. The public loves watching that.”

Yowell’s beekeeping passion is even reaching the new Terre Haute Children’s Museum. She and Vigo County beekeeper Aaron Warner have been serving as advisers for the live hive exhibit to be unveiled this fall. “The exhibit is going to look great. There’s a tree-like form that will house the planned encased live hive that will be connected to the outside so the bees can come and go. We hope to have local beekeepers rotate with us to take care of the exhibit.”

Appreciating Yowell’s love of nature and answering questions about bees and honey has even rubbed off on her husband, Bryon. He’s frequently the one who answers the door for folks wanting to buy honey. He also honors her hobby so much he built her a “honey house,” where she can house her beekeeping equipment, produce her jars of honey and store it for purchase. “I love my honey house,” she said with a big smile. “Bryon is a big help and appreciates my hobby.”

The “local honey for sale” sign by their driveway might as well be lit up in neon. “People stop all the time,” Yowell said. “We’ve even used an honor system before for people to leave money in a container and take their honey. Even that worked.”

For her dedication to beekeeping and for tending her kingdom of hives, Yowell easily could be called the area’s queen bee. How sweet it is.

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