This is the first of our monthly series on Getting to Know our Fellow Beekeepers. Please help me welcome our Beekeeper of the Year for 2013 Mr. Bill Smith.
What made you decide to keep bees? I tried to retrieve a swarm of bees from my mother-in-law’s house. I thought I knew a lot about bees. But that experience ignited the bee fever instead. Shortly after that I went and bought my first hive and the challenge was on.
How many hives did you start with? Just one.
How many years have you had bees? Thirty-five years.
How many hives do you have now? Four hives.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in caring for bees? Most recently I’ve learned to be gentle … slow and gentle. Don’t stir them or upset the bees; the less disturbance the better.
What bee products do you make? I only bottle honey, and I have wax.
How and where do you sell them? I sell strained honey in quarts to returning customers who have heard about me through word of mouth. I don’t advertise or anything. But when I’m talking about bees, folks ask if I have honey. That’s how they find about me.
Do you treat your bees? Yes, I use thymol and formic acid (both are natural products). I prefer natural treatments because chemicals have a lot of side damage; they’re more harmful to my bees and my bee equipment.
Do you use queen excluders? Why or why not? That’s a hard one to answer: I use it very sparingly. I like to let the bees start working then if necessary I may use an excluder. However, if I have a super full of honey then add another super, I won’t add an excluder because the queen won’t go through it.
Do you use screened bottom board or screened top boards? Neither one. I use a loose solid board, inner cover and outer cover. I’m probably in the minority on this but I’ve found that a screen bottom board makes my bees work higher in the hive; they don’t work in the bottom brood chamber.
Where do you buy your sugar? Domino’s Chrystal in Charlotte makes liquid sugar as a commercial basis. They sell the liquid sugar that is not table grade to beekeepers. It may granulate but I just heat it and it’s OK. I buy it in five gallon containers.
I’ve been a Master Beekeeper ever since the program began. I remember when Dr. John T. Ambrose sent out a newsletter introducing the NC Master Beekeeper Program (1982) that he had developed. The newsletter said that the course would be taught at the state meeting in Apex, NC. I sat through a seven hour class then took the class test and the practical test that day and passed. I believe the Master beekeeper program is great because it encourages a continuous learning process. It opens doors.
One of my intentions is to educate beginner beekeepers so that they won’t’ lose bees.
Thank you, Bill for taking a few minutes to share your thoughts with us and congratulations on being SCBA’s Beekeepers of the Year for 2013.
For more information about the NC Master Beekeeping Program, follow this link http://www.ncbeekeepers.org/master.htm