Many of us freak out when a bee or a wasp get anywhere near us. We either run the other way, or get out a can of Raid, but beekeepers are a different breed as I found out when one in Jefferson County gave me the challenge: "Art, Do My Job!"
David Hall thinks nothing of cracking open a hive swarming with thousands of agitated bees and stealing some of their precious honey with his bare hands.
Not me. I want the full suit!
"We're going to seal you off."
David has a hobby that can be dangerous. He wanted to make sure I stayed safe with a special beekeeper's suit with thick leather gloves and a veil. But a determined bee might still get in.
Art: "If a bee gets in here..
David: squish it..
Art: I should not panic.. just (slap)"
Now that we're suited up it's time to light the bee smoker and find out if I have the "right stuff" to brave the bees!
The smoker contains smoldering pine needles and it's just about all that stands between us and all those stingers! It's literally a smokescreen interfering with the bees' ability to communicate and sound the alarm.
We start smoking at the hive's front door.
Art: "A lot of bees in here!" David: "Maybe 30-thousand bees in this
Art: "This is a frame lifter. We're going to lift out the
Those frames come out covered with bees and you have to give 'em the brush off. All worker bees.. those that gather nectar and pollen and make honey.. are female. So.. what do the guys do?
David " They are the ones who sit around and do nothing."
They have no stingers, can't feed themselves or make beeswax.. and if they do get to mate with the queen, they die immediately afterward!
Speaking of dying, it's one thing I didn't want our videographer Lanetra Bennett to do! I was worried because her hands were uncovered.. very close to a cloud of swirling bees. You can see by her shadow how close Lanetra was.. so I asked:
"Lanetra, you OK? Lanetra: " Yeah."
The term 'busy as a bee' is no accident.
Art: "How long does it take to fill out this blank with honey?"
Dave: " Depends on what's blooming. I've seen 'em fill it out in one day."
Any frames filled with honey are taken off to be harvested.. all except the bottom section.
David "that's the brood chamber. There are bees
and babies and all sorts of eggs.. where the queen stays."
She can lay her whole body weight in eggs in one day.
Next up.. a trip to the honey house where the caps on the comb are scraped off so the sweet liquid can be released.
It's a wonderfully messy task!
Art: "This is a casualty.. but it's really good.. this is a good job!"
The frames are then put in a centrifuge and hand cranked. You quit just before your arm falls off. The honey and wax settle in the bottom and go through a strainer.
The delicious wildflower honey is finally poured into bottles and proudly given the Greyhaven Farm label.
Art: " Pure gold!"
So what does David love about his unusual past time?
David: "Everything about bees. It's a hobby, it helps in pollination. I get to meet great people and tell them all about bees. And I get people like you to do my job!"