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Cogan’s interest began 10 years ago when her daughter was suffering severely from pollen allergies. “I wanted to treat it naturally,” Cogan said. “I heard if she was given one or two teaspoons of raw honey she would gradually build up an immunity to local pollen. Believe it or not, it worked.”

The children helped build the hives and the family took them out to their 160-acre homestead off the Elliott Highway. That first year the bees produced three gallons of honey. Then Cogan enrolled in Steve Petersen’s beekeeping class, moved the hives to the Aurora area and that year’s yield was 46 gallons. “That was way too much honey,” Cogan said. She began selling honey at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market and three years ago started teaching beekeeping classes.

Cogan’s fascination with insects dates to her childhood in Slaterville (she still lives in the home she grew up in). Back then, nuns living near Monroe High School kept gardens nearby and Cogan would visit often, catching grasshoppers and bees in jars. “I was just crazy about insects,” she said. Later she became a master gardener, which goes hand in hand with beekeeping, Cogan said.

She loves sharing her knowledge about bees. “It’s so important to find ways to learn as a family,” she said. “The learning should never end.” She follows that philosophy too. She earned a bachelor’s degree in management communication from Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Ore., and is now working on a master’s in educational leadership.

One thing that keeps Cogan intrigued with bees is that the hive is a live lab. “In the lab you learn all about insects, which is life sciences, and you learn construction; when you study bees you see they’re created to construct in a way that is durable and efficient.”

And Cogan finds honey to be an amazing substance. “It has vitamins and is one of the few foods that has enzymes that you can’t process out of it. It doesn’t ferment. It was preserved in the Egyptian pyramids because it is antibacterial.” Her family uses honey on oatmeal, bread, yogurt and in salad dressing. Cogan avoids cooking with it.

Of course there is the downside to beekeeping — getting stung. Cogan is stung 10 to 50 times each season even though she wears a protective suit. She keeps Benadryl and children’s epinephrine always on hand but has never had to use them. “One sting in the wrong place on the body, if the conditions are just right, it could be lethal,” she said.

Cogan’s goals with her classes are to help families become more self-sufficient and to share the values people can learn from bees: “They have a good work ethic. There is simplicity. They have a short life and yet they use what they have been given for the sole purpose to provide for the next generation. They work selflessly to ensure the next generation is trained and prepared for their tasks.”

To become a good beekeeper requires the right equipment and consistency, Cogan said. “You’ve got to know what to look for and how to move the frames inside the hive to entice the bees to produce the maximum amount of honey. It also helps to have good weather and a natural water source nearby.