However, in 2007 my mother suffered a stroke. Doctor's bills mounted and my disposable income dried up. So the project ended with the first 50 hives (or 100 deep suppers and 30 hives of surviving bees). From then on for the next 5 years I began living at sea (sometimes in other countries) for 10 months out of the year. My brother went on with his life and with no steady flow of money, he left the bees in the field to do as they would.
In 2010 I remarried and slowed my work schedule down to one month away and one month home. At a dinner later that year I asked my brother how the bees were doing. He answered, "F*** those bees, they're all dead." His answer was so abrupt and jarring that words still echo in my head to this day. Between tools, wood, plastic frames, chemicals, and bees, I had invested $10,000 in those 50 original hives. Nonetheless, I was too shocked at his comment to reply so I changed the subject.
|And of course I got stung|
on the lip - Again!
We also moved one of our hives to another location that year. I made it a family event and took my two kids with me (my son Lee who was 15 and my daughter Whitney who was 17 at the time). This was also the first time I had attempted to interact with what will be referred to from here forward as The Beast.
The Beast is my most aggressive hive. On multiple occasions I have received over 50 stings at a time from The Beast. The day we attempted to move the hives, we started by lifting The Beast into the back of my truck. However due to my miscalculating the weight of The Beast, we dropped it (I thought it weighed 200lbs but it weighed about 400lbs). I immediately sent my kids from the area and into the truck to hide. Whitney got stung 3 times and vowed never to bee keep again, while Lee made it out unscathed.
However, I now had a hive of angry bees scattered on the ground. I couldn't just leave it so I stayed and put it back together. My kids said when I came out of the woods, I looked like something from a horror movie. I was covered from head to toe with bees. The smoker had no affect on them and so I began walking out across the field.
The real terror of being stung so many times is not the pain but the question. "How many times can I get stung before I go down?" I could feel them stinging me through my jeans and coat. Anyplace that my protective clothing made contact with my skin was as vulnerable as if I were naked. After about 200 yards I pulled a clump of weeds from the ground and began wiping the bees away. 30 stings... 40 stings... how many more could I take? I walked for a mile before I was alone with 3 persistent bees whom I delighted in squashing to death with my gloved hands. The thought crossed my mind that The Beast might just be filled with Africanized Bees (Killer Bees) but then again I had thrashed their home onto the ground like a hungry bear. So maybe I had it coming. I obviously didn't die but the stings did leaving me feeling achy and a bit feverish the next day - but no worse for the wear.
The following year I made my second harvest, this time taking the honey from The Beast. It was late September this time before I could pluck up the courage to face it but I did it. The bees did sting me once or twice but I got the honey without any really trouble.
So it became a hobby... but a hobby with a future plan. See, beekeeping can be fairly lucrative (Though finically risky) given that you have enough hives to work and the time to work them. So my wife and I began to set a goal of 10 years. In 10 years, we would have the kids out of the house, our bills paid off, and be ready to start beekeeping on a full-time bases.
That was until March 2015 when I met Marvin. Marvin is a professional beekeeper who, coincidentally, started keeping bees in 2004 (or there about). In that time he has done quite well with 500 hives. It was by a chance encounter with him that we became friends and he became somewhat of a mentor to me in the beekeeping world. With his guidance I immediately began splitting my hives. In March I had 3 hives, in April I had 6, and in May I bought 8 new queens and made my total hive count into 14 (though 3 of those are not looking so good.)
|March - The start|
|March - First split|
|April - 2nd split|
|May - 3rd split and new queens|
Now I am gathering up the ruins of my original 50 hives and trying to salvage what I can. As of now I have 60 deep supers, 3 shallows, and approximately 1,000 plastic frames in fair condition. The rest I lost to wood rot. I gave my brother all the tools I had originally bought as a settlement of our original deal. He no longer wants anything to do with bees, while I still think they are a good investment.
On May 15th there was one last problem to come up. I was laid-off. With fuel prices at $50 a barrel (down from $100) nearly 100,000 workers have been laid-off in the Gulf of Mexico since November. I did manage to get a short job for two weeks and that money (combined with my wife's income and my meager unemployment check will carry us through the year). However for now, I am totally unemployed. This throws a new hitch into my plans for moving forward. Rather than being able to invest in my bees, I will now have to make my bees do all the work. However, 60 deep suppers can make 30 healthy hives. With a little luck and prayer I can produce enough honey to buy more equipment. So this is my story. We will see how it all works out.