For 21 years I loved the bees. Even when they stung me. Even when they swarmed. Even when they gave me no honey.
It wasn’t easy. I had little help at the beginning. As a 40-year-old new beekeeper, I was the young kid on the block. The old men I found by searching far and wide, were tired and bent, although they loved talking about the bees. It’s an obsession for those who do it. One old man talked to me about getting rid of his deeps (hive body boxes) and using only small and medium supers because he simply couldn’t lift the deeps when they were full of bees and honey.
I read books and when my colonies arrived, I hived them by the book. I learned everything by reading and doing.
I bought my first extractor from W.S. He had built it himself. He’s the kind of guy who loves beekeeping. Guys who like to weld or build or tinker. Unlike me, who did it because we needed pollinators for our farm. That extractor was a conundrum. None of the screws were identical and it came with no manual. Every year when I took it apart to clean it, it was a devil of a puzzle to put back together. And heavy, too! But it worked well for many years. i sold it to my neighbor, D.C. who was nonplussed by the enigma of it because he was that kind of guy, too. With the money I made from selling honey, I bought myself a Dadant 6 frame extractor that worked like a charm.
I was also the only woman beekeeper. I felt so young and beautiful with those old dudes.
In the early years I tried every new thing I heard about. I attended SEMBA meetings. When I learned that fall feedings were as important as spring feedings, I did that. When I heard that black paper might protect the colonies through the winter better than straw bales, I tried that. I planted mint around the hives when I learned that mites were repelled by it. Some times I just persisted in my old ways, like using the Boardman feeders rather than an inside feeder.
The bee club at Seven Ponds was the closest in the early days. When I started, all the talk was about mite control; varroa mites and tracheal mites. I used Apistan strips every fall and they worked for years. Then the bees built up immunity to them. Colony Collapse Disorder opened people hearts to the plight of the bees. People who wanted to keep bees came out of the woodwork like termites. We outgrew our bee club chapter in Richfield township within a few years. Now our local chapter meets at Forest Township. We have 180 members and at least 50 come to the monthly meetings to learn from the more experienced among us.
Nowadays I am surrounded by beekeepers. I know of 5 beekeepers within a 5 mile distance of 3RF. Since bees travel up to 5 miles to gather nectar, I know our crops will be pollinated. And I know where I can get pure raw honey without doing all the work. If farm interns come along who are keen to learn beekeeping, I know several people who would welcome their help and their curiosity. A big thank you to those beekeepers who are carrying the torch forward. I salute you.