Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Remember the 1940s expression, "It is none of your beeswax!" meaning literally, this is none of your business? Beeswax is one of the by-products of a bee colony, and is a highly marketable commodity.

Van Buren County is not far from a major beekeeping industry that is a family-owned business in operation since the Civil War. Dadant & Sons, of Hamilton, Illinois are in their 143rd year of operation. The huge brick building is across the river from Keokuk, near the dam. You would be surprised at the worthwhile information to be gathered from a visit to the facility.

Charles Dadant came to America from France in 1863. He purchased land on the tall grass prairie of western Illinois, built a log house, and immediately began keeping honey bees. Since then, five generations of the Dadant family have been involved with beekeeping.

By the end of the Civil War, Charles Dadant had nine colonies of honey bees, and traveled with his young son across the Mississippi to sell honey and beeswax in Keokuk. His interest in making quality candles grew from his love and knowledge of beekeeping. Beeswax is ideal for making candles.

From the humble beginnings of their ancestor, the Dadants have expanded to 10 branch locations nationwide and four manufacturing facilities located near Hamilton.

A beekeeper is known as an apiarist. There are at least three reasons why people tend the bee colonies: to collect honey or beeswax, to pollinate crops, or to sell bees to other beekeepers. Beekeeping began in Egypt thousands of years ago and the knowledge of the craft is often handed down from generation to generation.

The art of beekeeping is managing a colonyís population so that the maximum number of bees is available for a task at a particular time. Most beekeepers are interested in producing a surplus of honey. A hive is a box used to house the colony.

A colony may grow to between 30,000 and 60,000 individual bees, headed by a single queen bee. Among the population are the workers (infertile females,) drones (males,) and brood (eggs, larvae and pupae.) During the winter, a colony may drop its size to as little as 6,000 in order to reduce consumption of food (honey.) There is danger in reducing the size too much, however. Bees cluster together in order to maintain a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, required for survival.

Many people keep a bee hive so as to provide themselves with an abundant supply of honey. When I was a child living in Leando, Bert Kerr was the local beekeeper, and sold jars or combs of delicious honey. His hive overlooked the river on the hillside below Ella Salterís home.

(some of the above information came from

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick