Teen’s passion is beekeeping
By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent
Bees have been an interest for 15-year-old Elijah Weber for as long as he can remember. After some years of learning about bees through books and the Internet, the Waterville teen has been learning hands-on for the past two years.
Weber started beekeeping last year with two hives. Unfortunately, his first two hives did not survive and he did not get the chance to harvest any honey. This year he has four hives, three of which he captured and one of which he purchased. As more and more people have learned that he is keeping bees, he has become the one to contact when a swarm finds its way to someone’s property.
So far this year, Weber was called about a swarm near Lamoine, one in East Wenatchee and one as far away as George. With a typical bee colony costing over $150, Weber is glad to go to capture the swarms. The people whose property the swarms are on are also glad to have someone who can take the bees away. Weber said that capturing a swarm is not difficult. He just puts a box under the swarm and knocks at the limb in which it is congregating. The bees fall into the box and he covers it with a lid that has a small hole in it. If he has managed to get the queen, then all the bees will fly into the box. If they don’t fly in, he knows he has not captured the queen and needs to try again.
One of the trickiest parts of capturing a swarm is getting them home without filling the car with bees, especially if the drive is a long one. Weber said that on the way home from George, he had to have his mother pull over several times to let stray bees out of the vehicle and to tighten the lid on the box so the bees wouldn’t escape.
Once home, Weber knocks the bees into his hive and they have a new home. He has found that the wild swarms he has captured have actually been more robust than the colonies he purchased.
Weber said that some of the challenges of beekeeping include getting the bees through the cold winters in Waterville and combating diseases. Weber puts tar paper around the hives in late October to early November to hold in the warmth of the sunlight. He also makes sure that the bees have at least 100 pounds of honey throughout the winter. He needs to keep weighing the hives to make sure they have enough and then adds sugar water, if necessary. He tries not to have to add the sugar water, though, because he wants to keep the bees as natural as possible.
Weber said that though his first hives did not do well, he has not noticed having a problem with specific diseases. However, he said that one of the main reasons he keeps bees is because he worries about the threats the honey bee is facing, notably colony collapse disorder. “The honey is nice, but the preservation of the honey bee is the goal for most beekeepers,” Weber said.
Bees are the most important pollinator and many people who understand the importance of bees to the human food supply believe that we would not be able to get along very long without them.
Weber’s father Jeremy said that one of the big advantages he sees to beekeeping is the amount of science that his son has learned in the process of preparing for and keeping his own hives. “What more science can you get than this?,” Weber asked as he helped Elijah with his first harvest.
One thing that most non-beekeepers want to know from beekeepers is how often they get stung. Elijah Weber said simply that he is stung “a lot.” Sometimes he has been stung because he has tried to cut corners with his bee suit, like by wearing tennis shoes with it instead of his work boots. Other times he has even been stung through his bee suit. In the beginning, he was a little over-zealous about checking his bees and was stung near his eye which swelled. He can give one absolute piece of advice for those who are going to be near bees — don’t eat a banana first. The smell of bananas is very similar to the bees’ alarm pheromone and it gets them agitated.
As Elijah Weber brought in his first honey Aug. 20, he experienced the sweetness and stickiness of harvest. He had lots of help from his younger sisters, Jadyn and Olivia, as he sought ways to strain the honey and get a perfect jar ready for entering in the NCW District Fair.
beekeeping, bees, Elijah Weber, honey, teen passion