PITTSBURG — For many people, the amount of time, space, and work involved — not to mention the likelihood of getting stung — outweighs the benefits of maintaining beehives. For some, however, beekeeping is one of their favorite hobbies, and not just because of the honey they get out of the deal.
“My experience is that’s not why they initially get into it,” said Dan Mosier II, current president of the Heartland Beekeepers Association of Southeast Kansas (HBASEK). “That’s kind of a side benefit and I think that’s part of what they want, but I think most people get into it because they feel a sense of responsibility for their environment and for helping pollinators along. They hear a lot on the news, you know, about the concerns over bee populations worldwide, honey bee populations worldwide and pollinator populations worldwide. So I think a lot of people get into it because it gives them the opportunity to feel like they’re pitching in and helping.”
The HBASEK, which has monthly meetings on the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in room 101 in Yates Hall on the Pittsburg State University Campus, hosted a one-day beginner beekeeping clinic on Saturday, drawing a crowd of would-be beekeepers from throughout the region. In the past, the Beekeepers Association has hosted similar clinics in the spring, but has moved the annual event to the fall to give beginner beekeepers time to get ready to set up their hives.
“You’ve got to get your hardware, your woodware, all this stuff ready and it kind of helps kind of lay the costs out a little bit for a longer amount of time,” said Linda Russell, who was a speaker at Saturday’s beekeeping clinic and co-founded the HBASEK in 2014.
“We learned a lot by doing it because we learned how much we didn’t know,” said Russell, who despite having been keeping bees for close to a decade, says there’s always more to know.
“I’m a baby,” Russell said. “I still call myself a novice. You never stop learning in beekeeping, it never stops, it’s not static.”
Amber Ames, who came from Chicopee to attend the clinic with her husband Josh, agreed that having the beekeeping clinic in the fall was a good time for it.
“You can do it in a step-by-step process, and it makes it easier than doing everything all at once in the springtime and trying to worry about where you’re going to get your bees and all that stuff,” she said.
Josh Ames said getting the honey that comes with keeping bees would be a major incentive for him in setting up beehives.
“I’d love to make my own mead,” he said. “All kinds of mead. Blueberry mead, strawberry mead, regular mead, just mead.”
He added, however, that after attending the clinic he had a greater appreciation for the aspect of beekeeping that is about simply taking care of the bees and helping them maintain a healthy hive.
Amber Ames said getting stung was not a major concern, at least for her personally.
“I’m not worried about ourselves getting stung because neither of us are allergic,” Amber said. “I was a medic for a number of years, and so I am thinking of other people who might be walking down our road or something — because we live out in the country — getting stung and then having an anaphylactic reaction, I get worried about that.”
Josh similarly said he wasn’t personally worried about bee stings.
“I like to, you know, cut and split wood and I do it the old fashioned way, I don’t use a splitter, you know, so I beat up my hands a lot anyway,” he said. “They get burnt, they get smashed, you know, so like bee stings do not sound like that bad of a deal compared to some of the injuries I’ve taken just doing that stuff. Bee stings sounds downright vacation-like.”
HBASEK President Mosier said beekeeping is increasing in popularity.
“There’s a lot more people getting into beekeeping nowadays,” he said. “People that are going to be hobby beekeepers — one hive, two hive, three hive beekeepers — and we’re here to help with that. We’re here to help people get started, I mean that’s what this day is all about.”
One of the younger clinic attendees, Carson Langworthy, said she came to the clinic with her mom as a requirement for a project for one of her classes at Field Kindley Memorial High School in Coffeyville, but she also has long had an interest is getting involved in beekeeping.
“My great grandpa, he kept bees whenever he was still around, and he’s passed away now, but I just always thought it was really cool and something that, I mean, you could start a business from,” she said.
Jaime Langworthy, Carson’s mother, said she was also enjoying the beekeeping clinic.
“It’s great, the speakers are fun to listen to and it’s been very informative,” she said. “It’s gave us a lot of insight of what we’re getting into.”
She said she was a little bit worried about getting stung, but was reassured by the beekeepers leading the clinic who did not seem too concerned about bee stings.
“I guess it all depends on how you approach the bees,” she said.
During the clinic, those in attendance learned about bee biology, the terminology of beekeeping, where to get bees to start their hives, and how to build hive boxes, among other things.
Lyn Smith, who lives in Carl Junction, gave a presentation at the clinic about plants that are beneficial to bees. Smith has been a member of the HBASEK almost since the organization started in 2014, which is also about how long she’s been keeping bees. She now has 11 beehives.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s so addictive. It’s just so interesting to see them grow. And it’s just addictive.”
Ron Smail, meanwhile, has been a beekeeper on and off since the late 1970s. While he currently maintains more than 150 hives, however, he still considers himself a hobby beekeeper.
“It keeps me busy in my retirement,” Smail said. “This is my retirement gig. So I kept them when I was younger but I got out of it because I had a wife, a family, full-time job, something had to go, couldn’t keep a full-time beekeeping job too, so I got out of it, and then got back into it in the early 2000s and then went into retirement with it.”
Even after decades of beekeeping, however, Smail said there is always more to learn about bees.
“They’re an interesting, fascinating creature that offers so many challenges, and about the time you think you know it, you realize what you don’t know.”
For Smail, bee stings are not a concern at all.
“Not that I don’t feel them,” he said. “I just don’t pay attention to them anymore.”