ONE ON ONE | John Beilhart III Leetonia beekeeper proves he's very hive-minded
OK, let's get this one out of the way first. Why bees?
Honey bees are just kind of fascinating creatures. They're fascinating to watch. They all do their work, and there's always something going on in the hive.
How did you get started?
I started out with just one hive that my wife's grandfather had given me. One just wasn't enough and I kept building from there simply because I wanted more hives to look at. You can't just look at one hive every day of the week.
How many hives do you have now?
About 75 or 80. Something like that. At one time I had close to 200, but we cut back a good bit after my son was born.
What does an apiary inspector do?
Basically it's checking other beekeepers' hives for disease and parasites. You also keep the beekeepers up to date on diseases and pests that are out there and offer some advice on how to deal with them. You try to help them keep their hives healthy and productive.
Other than honey, what's so good about honeybees?
Well, pollination for plants and trees, of course. And then the wax for candles. Almost everything from the hive is used, not just the wax and honey anymore. They use the propolis, which is a glue substance the bees make from sap from plants and trees. They use that in medicines. Even the beesting itself is used. The venom is used to treat multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
How do they do that?
Well in some cases they extract the venom and inject it. But basically, most people take the live honeybee and place it on the spot where the problem is and allow it to sting them.
Oh yeah, it's very common. There's a lot of that going on.
Do your bees do that?
I've rented bees to people who wanted a hive so they could go out and get one whenever they want it.
Do you get stung a lot?
Oh yeah, I get stung every day. Usually once or twice. And when I'm doing inspection work I get stung a lot more.
Don't you wear protection?
No, you can't wear gloves or any protection like that, because if there is any disease you might transport it from one hive to another, or from one location to another, so you have to go bare-handed and you get a lot of stings on your hands.
Do you squash 'em when they sting you?
Yeah, I do.
Atta boy. But does it pain you to kill a honeybee?
No. There's actually a reason for it. After a bee stings you, it's going to die. But it may take it two or three days to die, so you're kind of putting it out of its misery kind of quickly.
So it's the humane thing to do?
I guess so. But another reason is that if you get stung by a honeybee, a lot of times that bee will come back and continue to bounce on you, even though he's no longer got a stinger and can't hurt you. What he's doing is spreading a scent that attracts more bees to sting you, so you try to kill it and reduce that scent in the air, which would infuriate even more bees.
Have you ever thought about changing hobbies?
Well I do have other hobbies. I hunt and fish.
Have you ever been attacked and bitten by a swarm of angry fish?
(Laughing). No, I haven't. And I don't hunt anything dangerous.
Why not just switch to fishing? Sounds safer.
No, I'll stick with the bees. I'm not going to change hobbies. Not this late in life, that's for sure.
Isn't beekeeping dangerous?
I don't consider it really dangerous at all. I can think of much more dangerous things to do, like people who work with electricity all day.
How long to you plan to keep working with bees?
As long as I'm alive. Most people who become beekeepers are in it for the long term.
Do you use bee products yourself?
Oh yes. We eat honey every day here. We use it instead of sugar. My wife has won some baking contests at the state fair with products she's baked with honey. We also make our own candles.
How do you relax?
I watch movies more than anything else. And we like to camp.