The benefits of honey are numerous! Honey bees are few. I had been sourcing local raw honey for our farm market and not having much luck. Then, at the recommendation of my bee-keeping friend Desiree, I found Williams' Honey Bees. Dan Williams consented to do an interview for me but, before I share that interview on bee-keeping, I must tell you about his Tulip Poplar Honey. OH. MY. GOSH!!!
The color of the honey was perfect. Its tempting aroma prodded me to try it on a spoon first--creamy sweetness that filled my mouth with its delectable flavor! Then I put it on hot buttered toast and let it ooze for a minute into the bread's many crevices. Wow! The toast became a chewy confection. I'm hooked! Dan offers a variety of honeys and bee pollen.
So, with that introduction, here's my interview of Dan Williams of Williams Honey Bees, Frankfort, Ohio:
ME: When did you first get the idea to get bees and process honey?
DAN: I used to buy, sell, and trade goats with a guy up in Hocking County. His dad was a beekeeper with a few hives. One day while dealing goats the old man came out and started talking bees. Out of respect I stood there and listened, and an hour later I was amazed.
A few years later...
One day me and a buddy of mine were out at the farm shooting our bows. He had just put a new sight on his bow and needed to tune it in. We needed to set up a few straw bales behind our target in case he missed. So up in the hay mound I went. I lifted up a bale of straw and was immediately attacked by yellow jackets. They chased me all the way down the ladder and out of the barn and stung my face up pretty bad, before I could get to the hose to spray them off. My buddy drove me 4 miles to my house where my wife was waiting at the front door with 2 benadryl that I immediately chewed. My face was swelling so bad so quick that we went to urgent care quickly. By the time we got there the swelling had stopped but since I was there and stung 15 to 20 times on the face I thought what the heck we're here I might as well let the doctor look at me and possible give me something to ease the reaction. The doctor took care of me and said, "wow, you did pretty good with that". Hum?? My face is swelled up and one eye is completely gone, pretty good? I don't know, but if you say so. My wife called her cousin who had kept bees for a few months to come get these "bees" out of the barn. At the time I didn't know what kind of stinging insect they were, except that they stung and it hurt! He came out to get the bees that turned out to be yellow jacket. He went ahead and killed the nest of yellow jackets for us and started talking beekeeping with me and how to get started. Wow! This is easy, I thought, and the doctor said I did "pretty good with that". The next spring I got my first bees!
ME: When did you actually start your business?
DAN: A few months after getting my bees I realized that this was not something I would do for a hobby. I was obsessed and couldn't help myself. I tell people I used to fish and turkey hunt but now from Feb-October all my spare time goes to the bees. Usually my vacation time from work gets burnt up to get ready for spring, sell nucs, and harvest honey.
ME: What is the hardest part of beekeeping, and how many hives do you want to maintain?
DAN: To me there is nothing hard about beekeeping. The hives are heavy, the sun is hot, and the hours can be long but I was once told do something you enjoy and you'll never work a day in your life. Put me in a bee suit on a 90 degree day and I'm a happy camper! HAHA
I'm looking to maintain as many hives as possible while still keeping my wife as my wife! HAHA I'm joking! I don't know how many hives I want. I used to have a goal of 100 but once I hit 100 I said 200. Time will tell!
ME: Do you ever retrieve wild bees from people's homes, trees, etc., and if so, do you still want to collect the wild bees?
DAN: Taking bees out of a wall in someone's house is an all day job and, when it's all said and done, you have one hive and a hole in someone's house. What I do to increase my numbers is split the hives I already have and install a new queen in each split. I can do about 30 of these in a day vs the one out of someone's house. So I pass on the bees from someone's tree or house. Now if a swarm is found around Frankfort, I will still go get them. A swarm is the way bees naturally reproduce. The old hive will produce a new queen and the old queen will leave with about half the bees to find a new home. Once the old queen and her bees leave the colony, they will usually cluster up on a tree branch or other object close by. They then start sending scout bees out in all directions to find a new suitable permanent home. Once the scout bees locate the perfect new home, they come get the rest of the bees and all at once they take off! When this swarm is seen hanging in a large cluster like this, it is very easy for a beekeeper to come get those bees and put them in a hive. They can hang around looking for a new home for a few hours to a few days. There is an extensive list of beekeepers in South Central Ohio on www.sciotovalleybeekeepers.com that will come and remove these bees.
ME: You supply bees to other people. Exactly what do they get?
DAN: When customers come and pick up bees, they bring with them an empty hive and I install 3 frames of brood (baby bees) in various stages of development, a frame of honey, an empty comb and a marked laying queen. (The queen is marked with a dot of paint on her thorax to make it easier to find her if needed.) I screen up the entrance and they take the bees to their new homes. Once they get there, the beekeeper will remove the screen and start to feed the bees a 1:1 mixture of sugar to water to help them get started.
I also sell queens for beekeepers to requeen their colonies or to make splits. I use artificially inseminated queens to raise queens off of. These queens are part of an extensive breeding program where various traits are selected for. Such as gentleness and honey production. When queens mate, they mate with up to 20 drones. The use of artificial insemination is used by the queen breeder to control the genetics that she is exposed to. These breeder queens are then used by me to raise queens off of. When a queen is mated and ready to be shipped, I cage her in a special cage, put her in a priority or express envelope and send her to other beekeepers around the country through the mail.
ME: Do you have a brief experience you'd like to tell people about and/or a final thought on the subject of bees or beekeeping or honey?
DAN: If anyone is interested in keeping bees, check out the Scioto Valley Beekeepers. We meet once a month in Circleville, have a website www.sciotovalleybeekeepers.com and a facebook page.