Beekeeping: From 0 to 10,000 Quickly!

By Tim Carter

Editor’s Note: At Kelley’s Field Day in June, I ran into this enthusiastic couple and asked if they were beekeepers. (Yes, I knew the chances were good.) They enthusiastically shared that they were—and recent beekeepers in fact. Like parents of a newborn, they offered to show me pictures. Their story was so inspiring that I asked if they’d share it to encourage others. Here it is.

How did we get into keeping bees? WOW—what a whirlwind of events in such a short time!About two years ago, my wife Donna asked what I thought about us becoming beekeepers. Being one to shy away from things I know nothing about, I told her, “We live in an urban area, a subdivision, and probably wouldn’t be allowed, even though we have an eight-foot backyard privacy fence.”

Well, things were fine until April 25th. Then, our newspaper featured a story about Lorie and Te d Jacobs in Louisville, who kept backyard bees.

I gave the article to Donna and asked if she really thought we could keep a hive or two in our backyard. You should have seen her eyes light up. She looked like a young girl who had just gotten her first pony for Christmas.

I’d been talking about retiring for some time. We could keep bees; it would be something we could do together.

We told God if He would allow us to become beekeepers, as we harvested the honey we would give it to people we visit in the hospital and who have attended our church for the first time, as a way to glorify Him and tell others of His awesome creation and love. I didn’t know one prayer would open doors so quickly.

Donna wanted to laminate the article, so we went to the local supply store. The lady at the store noticed the article about beekeeping. She said if we were going to become beekeepers then we needed to go to Kelley’s Bee Factory in Clarkson, Kentucky, talk to someone there and take a tour.

We decided to drive to Kelley’s. As we’re en route, I’m thinking we’ll just tour, talk with someone and maybe purchase a hive and take our time to assemble it and be ready to start next year.

We arrived about two hours before closing. The lady at the counter asked if she could help us and were we there to place an order. Donna asked where we could sign up for the next tour.

Immediately the entire office was silent; all attention focused on us. Tours were over for the day.

As Donna and I stood there with disappointed, “What do we do now?” looks on our faces, a young lady stepped around her desk and told us that she would be happy to answer any questions we might have.

She showed us around, answered our many questions and gave an overview of the Deluxe Beginners Kit (Cat # 365NE). Eventually Donna and I looked at each other and decided, “Enough talking, let’s do it!” Again, we were thinking we would have the rest of the year to get ready for bees.

We then asked how and when could we get bees, and were told by the end of March there are no bees available.

I had taken photos of our back yard to show them where we were going to put our hive. After looking at the photos, the lady said “We need to get them some bees. Look at this yard—they need bees.”

We were then asked if we could be ready for bees tomorrow.

I said, “Yes,” and Donna said, “But we don’t know anything about keeping bees.”

There are two books that come with the kit. The lady suggested we read on our way home, and asked for our phone number. There was a chance there might be an extra package of bees the next day.

So, back to Louisville we drove with our hive in the back and Donna reading Beekeeping Principles by Dr. James Tew (Cat # 615) out loud.

Nervous, thinking, “What have we gotten ourselves into,” but excited, we were up until 11:30 that night assembling.

About 11:15 Louisville time the next morning, Donna asked if Kelley’s had called. I told her no. She asked what number I gave them.

I thought she had given them the number! Here we were, waiting for Kelley’s to call, and neither of us gave them a number!

We called at 11:20. Kelley’s said they had bees for us if we could be there by noon. We were on the road in five minutes. I’m not one to drive over the speed limit, but I think we made record time, arriving ten minutes before noon.

As we walked in, we heard, “There you are! We have your bees.” We could sense their excitement for us. We purchased our bees and returned to Louisville with the excitement of a young couple taking their first baby home from the hospital.

We placed our hive in the back yard and installed the bees. As we stood looking at our bees and one another—WOW, what an awesome feeling, our first hive.

An Update

We caught up with Tim and Donna about six weeks into beehood and their bees were doing great. While they originally thought about having one hive, now they’re thinking more like four next year.

They added, “Who would have thought, in less than 24 hours, so many doors would open? Going from thinking about it to hiving a package of bees. Many thanks to Lorie and Ted Jacobs, President of the local K.B.A. in Louisville for the article on urban beekeeping and many, many thanks to the folks at Kelley’s for their encouragement, their patience, and their excitement for us.

Every time we go to church now, people ask how our bees are doing and everyone wants to come to our house to see our bees. There are two families in our church that have shown a real interest in keeping bees … Even the deliveryman noticed the package from Kelley’s he delivered. He started asking questions and got excited about bees. Simply amazing.”

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