By Abby Crawford
Let’s talk business, and I’m talking bees-ness. The bee industry has been facing a difficult time here lately. I wanted to take this time to talk about bees and learn a little more.
There are invasive pests and predators, such as beetles and mites, that are bringing diseases into our beehives and killing off the bees. There is also an issue with pesticides when sprayed too close to honey hives, the wind travels it to the hive and it can be harmful to the bees. At the same time, when bees are on a property to pollinate during the same time it is being sprayed, the bees can collect the residue and this can be harmful to the small bees.
I sat down with my friend and Collegiate FFA member, Ethan Eichar, to learn more about bees and things he has learned in the 3 ½ years that he has been beekeeping.
Long before Ethan was ever even thought of, his grandfather was a beekeeper. As he grew older, there was no one to take on his small business so Ethans grandfather eventually sold his company and all of his hives.
When Ethan graduated high school and started college, he had a little extra money left over from savings and scholarships. He really wanted to invest in himself and his future, that is when he began researching more about beekeeping and the bee industry.
After about six months of researching and reading, Ethan went out and bought his first two hives. “I was terrible at it!” jokes Ethan. “I just kept working my bees as much as I could. I learned alot from research and reading but nothing compares to actually getting out and occasionally getting stung. I have found great mentors along the way that I have really learned a lot from and that have invested in me,” Ethan states.
I asked Ethan about the most popular breed Florida beekeepers are using since some bees don’t do well in the heat (and in case you haven’t been in Central Florida long, it gets a little hot here!) and it appears most use an Italian breed because they adapt very well to our climate and adjust to it as needed.
Have you heard the saying “People are like snowflakes, no two are the same”? Well, it’s very true in the beekeeping industry as well. Not all beekeepers work the same way. Each has their own way that works for them and that’s what makes the world go ‘round.
For instance, some may purchase their Queen Bees, bring them in and build their hive from that. Ethan chooses to take half of his bees and half of the honey and allow the bees to form new colonies naturally. Over the few short years Ethan has grown his two hives to a total of 15 hives!
Fun fact- did you know that it takes just one month to form a new generation of bees?! Me either! How neat is that?
Ethan is quick to share that beekeeping requires a lot of hard work and not necessarily the largest paycheck. “You have to have a passion for it,” he shares. He believes this is one of the biggest reasons why not many young adults are in to keeping bees. “For some reason, people don’t believe that getting stung everyday can be fun! But I love what I do and after so long, you really don’t feel the sting anymore,”
As with any field in agriculture, the average age is only getting higher and if younger people don’t get involved and get into farming, who knows what the future generation agriculture will look like.
Because of the passion that Ethan has for beekeeping and bees in general, he has designed a class to teach students at H.E.A.R.T over the course of a semester things they need to know to get their beehives alive and thriving.
Ethan has also built an observation hive to take to different shows and events in an effort to teach the community about his bees. The hive is a smaller version of a hive with only two stories in it. One of the sides actually has a glass panel that allows for you to look in and observe the bees in their natural habitat.
Lastly, he is very excited to attend the first annual Bee College in October hosted at the U.S. Honeybee Lab that recently opened in Gainesville! Goodluck Ethan!
Find out more about Ethan and his hives and to purchase good ol’ local raw honey by following his Facebook page, Eichar Apiary.
That wraps it up for this month. As you’re gliding sweet honey across your toast in the morning, make sure to stop and Thank A Farmer!