On a rural farm, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, my grandfather, Wade Adkins, kept bees. Some of my earliest childhood memories are filled with my dad making a right off a well trav-eled gravel road, that was barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, into my grandparents drive-way and of me being sure I got out on the right side of the car, because to get out on the left side meant I would have to come face to face with 100 bee hives lined up against an embankment. No it isn’t a typo, an exaggeration or a figment of my imagination. My grandfather had 100 thriving bee hives. That’s, quite possibly, over 6 million bees, and I wanted no part of them.

Now, typically, when you hear of someone owning 100 hives, you think Commercial Beekeeper. You might already be thinking my grandfather was one, but he wasn’t. In light of that fact, you may be thinking then that he was just a “bee-haver”. Again, you’d be wrong. My grandfather was definitely a bee-keeper. Many times, I saw my grandfather, armed only with his smoker, go out to tend that never-ending row of bee hives. And come harvest time, only he and my grandmother, painstakingly, extracted each frame of honey. But how? There are mite checks to be done. Hive beetle traps have to be installed, re-moved, cleaned, and installed again. You have to locate and kill the old queen and install a new queen, every year or two. Didn’t he have to do all that? The answer, quite simply, is no.

Many of the diseases, pest and parasites beekeepers face today weren’t around when my grandfa-ther kept honey bees, and although my grandfather worked his bees, he also let the bees take care of them-selves. Therefore, we must then ask ourselves if there is something to his way of beekeeping or is it simply outdated? Can the honey bees really thrive without us, or do they need our help? If they do need our help, what type of help do they need from us? I believe more than anything else, they need us to be aware. Aware that whether we choose to do some form of “natural” beekeeping or opt for a more modern ap-proach, everything we do will either be helping or hindering the bees.

Tonya Shumate


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