Ron and LaVonne Babcock, Beekeepers : Arlington
Ron and LaVonne’s honey begins as nectar from the raspberry firleds and mountain meadows in northwest Washington. This year’s harvest offers the full, round taste of raspberry honey blended by the bees with the light,yet complex flavors of fireweed, thistle, and other wildflowers. The taste of Ron and LaVonne’s honey is unique every year, and carries with it both the light flavors of the fields and depth from the mineral rich soils of western Washington.
Ron will tell you that he and his wife LaVonne have been in the bee business for 20 years. LaVonne puts it closer to 30. In those years their entire staff has been Ron and LaVonne. Together they manage around 100 hives of Carniolan and Italian bees. She manages deliveries; he manages the bees.
Ron’s inquisitive nature lead him to beekeeping. A friend had bees on his property, and would talk about the different aspects of the bees, the queens and their social behavior. “I got interested and when I moved to Washington state, I up and started my bees in Bothell.” Beekeeping soon became the second love of his life. His first love is his wife and co-worker, LaVonne.
Ron began keeping bees knowing that he had extreme reactions to bee stings. In one instance, a sting put him in the hospital. “It’s a rejection of the venom,” Ron explains. “I don’t have an allergy. If you have the allergy your throat closes off and you can’t breath.”
Nature, and Ron’s tenacity, created a cure. “I got this bright idea of going to the Imperial Valley for the cotton crop.” The high temperatures and moving of the hives put the bees on edge. “They were an inch thick on the front of the hive, and they had to be moved by hand. We got stung severely, but I had herd a lot of vitamin C would counteract bee stings. After we got the bees done, I went and got two gallons of orange juice and drank it down. Since that point I have not had a problem.”
Ron and LaVonne’s bees still travel to pollination contracts. The year starts in California’s almond groves, then it’s off to the Shasta for pear pollination. East Wenatchee cherries are the next crop; then they make a stop in the Lynden and Everson acres for raspberries, cabbages, and cucumbers. Late June sees them return to the Snohomish Valley near Granite Falls for Wildflower Honey.
Every move and every new crop requires a quick assessment of the bees; a part of beekeeping, that Ron finds fascinating. “All aspects of beekeeping are interesting, but I like trying to anticipate what’s going to happen in the weather as well as in the hive,” he explains. “You have to be able to do diagnose what’s going on to be able to get a crop. When you have this many bees, you can only spend fifteen minutes in each hive to figure out if the queen is going to be good enough. I like the challenge.”