Years as a beekeeper:
Sarah served as the 2013 and 2014 President of the Wake County Beekeepers Association and remains active in the North Carolina beekeeping community.
Best thing about being a beekeeper?
Being a beekeeper allows me to connect with nature and understand how pollinators, specifically honey bees, play an integral role in daily life and the entire ecosystem. Observing a bee hive is relaxing and rewarding and enjoying a little honey every now and then from the hives is also a benefit!
What should people do if they’re interested in exploring the possibility of becoming a beekeeper?
If you’re interested in getting started with beekeeping, I recommend that you look online for a local beekeeping association – generally, each county has one. In the spring, these associations offer classes on how to get started so they’ll go through all the basics of beekeeping, the equipment you’ll need, and they can also recommend local suppliers for bees and equipment. Even if you’re not quite sure that you want to get started, you can take the class and start reading up on beekeeping and hook up with a mentor from the association. Help them with their hives. That’s the best experience – actually getting in the hives and seeing what it’s like.
Did you have success right from the start?
Oh, I’ve had plenty of mishaps. I would say more mishaps than success. I don’t know if that’s a trend in beekeeping, but it certainly is a challenging hobby. It is rewarding to learn from your mistakes and have that one moment of success – that one overwintering success or that good honey crop – that makes it all worthwhile. Some of my early failures were a result of not knowing what the bees’ needs were. The bees certainly couldn’t tell me what they needed. I had to get educated on how to interpret what was going on in the hive.
Can you give an example of one of your learning experiences?
Well, my first summer in beekeeping I called my NC State University professor in a panic. I said, “I’m looking at my hive and there’s all kinds of colors inside – greens, reds, purples, oranges, blues. Is this some kind of new rainbow disease?” I didn’t know what was happening. He said, “Your bees are hungry and what you see is corn syrup from soda cans that they’re collecting from the neighborhood trash. You need to go ahead and feed your bees. They’re bringing back the only food that they can find.” It was July and nothing was blooming to provide nectar. So I had to supplement with sugar water. It was an epiphany. I always thought, “Well, bees will find the food. They’ll fly as far as they need to.” That helped me to realize that starvation can be a big factor.”
How did you get your first hive?
After taking Entomology 101: Introduction to Bees and Beekeeping at NC State, I continued through graduate level classes as I became so enthralled with these fascinating insects. I joined the local Wake County Beekeepers Association and took their beginning beekeeping class. At this point, I knew I wanted to start beekeeping, I just didn’t know when. At the Wake County Beekeepers Association class, I won a door prize – a free hive of bees. I thought, “I’m in this for real. I have bees coming, I better get ready.”