We have a knack for hiring interesting folks here at Infinite Energy. So from time to time, we like to spotlight some of the outside interests and talents of these amazing employees, especially when those interests are relevant to a special day of the year.
When we found out National Honey Bee Day was coming up on August 15, we knew we had the perfect excuse to sit down (virtually) with Walter K., our print production specialist. He’s been with us for over 16 years. And besides entertaining us daily with his charm and encyclopedic knowledge of historical events, he keeps bees—at home and not in the office, thankfully.
Here’s what our resident beekeeper—and occasional supplier of honey—had to say on National Honey Bee Day.
Walter, what got you into bees and how long have you been doing it?
Well, years ago, my parish had a priest visit from Rwanda. The country was still recuperating from the genocide that had taken place there a few years earlier. And he was looking for ways to help raise money so they could care for all of the orphans left after the atrocities that had taken place.
We became good friends, and I’d help him brainstorm on ways to help raise money. Lots of ideas were tossed around. But at one point, they talked about potentially growing fruit orchards, so I asked how they would handle pollination. We knew you had to have bees. But neither of us knew anything about them. So, I went and bought two hives. I brought them home and studied them for a whole year. At the end of the year, I created nine hives out of those two. And I’d been stung enough to be really interested. The orphanage eventually went another route to make money. But bees became a hobby for me. I’m going to guess I’ve been doing them now for about six years, maybe seven. Yeah, no longer than seven.
Do you have a lot of bees? And do they produce a lot of honey?
I don’t have a lot of hives now—I’ve had a bad year. But I’ve had close to 100, 79 to 100, at my peak.
One frame of honey can make nine or 10 pounds. And if you have 10 frames in a hive, that’s 100 pounds! Right now, I’ve got 600 pounds of honey in five-gallon buckets in my kitchen. I haven’t poured it into bottles yet.
And how many times have you been stung, Walter?
A lot. I don’t count anymore. I used to count, but when I got to 10, I stopped. I don’t think 100. If I had to guess, I’d say 20 to 50, 20 to 40. Something like that. And it’s a pain in the neck because I’m not allergic to bee stings, but I’m not un-allergic, if you know what I mean. It does bother me. I have special clothing, but sometimes they still get through.
Besides the stings, what’s challenging about bees?
Well, you use lose hives all year long. In the spring, they split, you know? Half the bees leave with the queen to make another hive. The old queen has left eggs, and some of those turn into queens. But there’s only one at a time—the new queen will kill any other potential queen. Well, she flies off to mate. And sometimes she doesn’t come back. She gets hit by a car. Or some dragonfly says, “You’re supper.” Or she comes back and wanders into the wrong box, and she gets attacked. A hive without a queen will die in less than a month. You have to always check to make sure fresh eggs are being made. You check them every two days—I’m looking for eggs. I’m looking for eggs. Oh, we got eggs! There’s a queen.
What are your future plans with bees?
I’d like to rent bee hives to farmers in California in a few years, the almond farms. All of those people in the valleys need bees. There’s a lot of money in it. But it’s best if you’re already located out there. I would love to do that.
We love each of our employees here at Infinite Energy, especially when they bring us honey. Stay tuned as we talk to more of them about their special talents and interests in the weeks and months ahead.