Herb Lester

The Start of a New Endeavor

The Lester Apiary is a small apiary of 25 colonies on seventeen acres located in the beautiful rolling hills of Middle Tennessee near Lascassas, Tennessee. The surrounding area is a farming community with pastures, cropland, woodland, branches and creeks. The community was established over two hundred years ago while the Cherokee Indians still occupied much of the area. Having grown up in this area it was a natural for me to be drawn back to this area. You might say it is The Center of The Universe. The place where life started for me. Having spent 37 years working for The University of Georgia and Tennessee Extension, it was time to start a new endeavor. Now was the time to develop a new challenge. My whole life was made up of meeting new challenges each day. What would I do with my life? How would I do what I enjoyed the most? How would I continue to teach, to learn, to solve problems, make a difference in my surroundings?

The things I enjoyed the most in my career were social networking, the teamwork, the hands-on work outdoors, the problem solving, and the great learning curve and the great focus forward ... The challenge!

Healthcare of those near and dear to me was a retirement agenda, but ... I had to have more out of life ... I needed to have something that would fill those voids of work withdrawal. One of the first people I met at The University of Tennessee was Professor Harry Williams, an entomologist, an apiculturist for 30 years ... A man who shared his knowledge of beekeeping with others ... A man who cared about people and helped them every way he could. I always enjoyed visiting with Professor Williams. I enjoyed learning from his knowledge and skills.

Something stayed with me all those years ... The fact that when I retired ... I would start an Apiary. I carried an old "Guide to Bees and Honey" book by Ted Hooper with me through all my moves with Extension. When I retired, I purchased 17 acres from my brother on the backside of the farm, built a log house, and started a new career as a manager of 25 Colonies of Russian Hybrids and Italian Honey Bees run on a pad of large concrete stepping stones with Kelley Metal Hive Stands, IPM Screen Bottom Boards, with deep brood boxes topped off with Kelley's Hive Top Feeders.

The start was slow at first ... started out with 2 colonies of Russian Hybrids from The Walter T. Kelley Company. The Bee People! My first contact with the Walter T. Kelley Company was with a real Beekeeper named Stacy. She told me exactly what Equipment I needed in order to get started as a successful Beekeeper. It was a real pleasure to be able to pick up the phone and ask a real beekeeper questions with the confidence that I could trust the answers. What a Service! Over the years I have increased my numbers to 25 colonies with the help of Stacy and Jennifer as my bee advisors. These people are like family ... I feel I have a direct contact with the people who make Walter T. Kelley what it is today! They put me in touch with The Kelley Swarm Day were I have made contact with other beekeepers and University Specialists. I have become friends with beekeepers from all over the United States because of the help that Stacy gave me.

I am re-establishing my roots ... Getting connected back to nature ... Learning about the social order of a unique order of insects that work together as a collective group producing a product of Honey that has been around since the time of mankind. The tiny humble honeybee makes a difference in the quality of all mankind through pollination of food and fiber crops. You would say ... A sizable contribution to all of mankind. 

Now I am trying to get in rhythm with the cyclic nature of the honeybee population, checker boarding the x-files of beekeeping, how to romance the swarm, listening to the hum of the QueenBee and her court. My bees are my livestock, my pets in some cases, and my new adventure has connected me to the grassroots - local beekeepers, retired professors of entomology, retired NASA electrical engineers, bee bloggers in the US, UK, and Canada.

My new monitors are not that much different from my Extension friends. They are people who care about the environment, who want to teach others, make the world a better place to live, and to leave the world a better place for the next generation.

The management of the apiary is fulfilling my desire to learn, to teach, to be connected to people worldwide, to listen to the hum of life as it moves from one season to another. Life is like the sweet taste of honey ... Sometimes it stings ... But ... It is always good!