Scientists would call them Apiarists, but Kristine Smith says they just call themselves beekeepers, or the shortened version, beeks.
Kristine is one of the hundreds of members of the Tidewater Beekeepers Association in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Franklin, Virginia. This is her first year in the beekeeping profession, but was previously a biologist for 16 years.
“I bought a small farm down here, beekeeping seemed like an obvious choice” she said when I asked what got her into the profession after so many years.
The TBA is the largest local beekeepers’ organization in Virginia. They work to bring awareness and knowledge to the public. One place being the Farmer’s Market in Virginia Beach, where I had the pleasure of conversing with Kristine about her work.
Even though it is her first year as a beek, Kristine is very knowledgeable about the world of bees and the important role they play in our lives. An associate of Kristine’s says that this was a bad Spring for bees. It rained a great amount, and when it rains, the bees don’t come out. When this occurs, Kristine says that she has to feed the bees sugar syrup. Bees need to produce 45-80 pounds of honey per hive to survive the Winter, and each pound requires pollen from 2,000,000 flowers. So, when it rains, it halts production.
When asked about the most difficult step in beekeeping, Kristine, who is also the Event Coordinator for the TBA, said “extracting honey can be daunting if you have a manual extractor”.
She said you have to place a frame, which is a wood structure used to hold the honey comb, into the extractor and spin it so that it uses centrifugal force to remove the honey from the frame.
It was an interesting time to sit down with Kristine and learn that only 4-5% of the people who think they’re allergic to bees are in fact allergic. People often confuse an allergy for a histamine. A histamine reaction is where you become itchy. An allergy would cause anaphylaxis.
Kristine has been busy in her first year as a beekeeper. Besides honey, she makes candles, soaps, salves, balms, and chap sticks.
Support people like Kristine and the Tidewater Beekeeper’s Association by purchasing local products. Consuming local honey helps to fight common pollen allergies. You can find people like Kristine, and other beekeepers by visiting their website or by visiting your local farmer’s markets.
For more information on the Tidewater Beekeepers Association, visit their website at http://www.tidewaterbeekeepers.net