Nine-year-old getting schooled on beekeeping arts

Len Ladoucer of Butternut Farm pulls out a honeycomb board to show junior beekeeper Archer Gopaul-Woods at their hives near Courtland. (Chris Abbott/Norfolk Tillsonburg News)

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After watching online beekeeping videos, nine-year-old Archer Gopaul-Woods decided he wanted to try beekeeping.

“Well, I like bees, I’ve never got stung by one, so why not?” said Archer.

Family friends in Tillsonburg, Diane and Len Ladoucer, just happened to be experienced beekeepers with hives near Courtland, and they were willing to tutor the London boy.

Diane said they had acquired their first hives in 1979. They have had local hobby hives since 1996.

“I’m fascinated by bees and I have been for 40-some years,” said Len. “One day Diane came home from the park and said ‘Guess what, I’m getting two hives of bees.’ I said, ‘Good for you, I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want to get stung.’ I didn’t know anything about bees.”

Archer had his third training session on Sept. 5 as they worked on his four-frame starter honeybee hive.

“What they’re doing now is they’re bringing in pollen,” said Len, wearing his beekeeping gear. “On the back legs you’ll see yellow. We’ve already smoked the hive at the front, and then we smoked it here (at the top).

“I’ll bring a frame up to see what it looks like,” added Len.

Pulling out a frame, which can weigh up to 35 pounds when packed with honey, Len said, “you can see they’re starting to cap the honey. That means it’s curing and that’s a good sign because Archer’s going to get honey out of this.”

“Oh my gosh, I can just see blobs of honey,” said Archer as Len prepared to lift the second box, allowing Archer to insert a ‘bee escape’ which would later facilitate honey extraction.

“You can hear them hum,” said Len. “We need some smoke here.”

Upon completion, Diane and Len presented Archer with a Butternut Farm certificate of achievement.

“You’re now officially a beginner beekeeper,” said Len, noting the next step will be preparing Archer’s beehive for winter.

After each session the Butternut Farm group typically enjoyed a picnic lunch and fresh honey products.

“It’s so good when you get the honey from the hive, just immediately, and then you chew on it. It tastes so good,” said Archer.

Offering a comb honey sample, Len said, “That’s the pure of the pure, it can’t get any better than that.”

“Oh, you’re going to love it,” said Archer.