Local honey has gained a significant following in Charlotte over the last few years.There are more small honey producers selling to neighbors, restaurants and at farmers markets. Some swear by local honey’s ability to lessen pollen allergies, while others believe the honey just tastes better.Whatever the attraction, local honey gets snapped up quickly after the summer harvest season in Charlotte. But what is it that makes a person take up beekeeping?During a recent visit to Sammy Myers’ backyard apiary in Stonehaven, his passion for beekeeping was clear. “I love the smell of the hive, the smell of the wax,” Myers said. “When I open up a hive, I’m just taken back, it’s such a miracle of nature. It’s amazing what bees can do, but equally amazing that the beekeeper can manage them and help them optimize what they do.” Myers, an electronics technician for the Postal Service, spends his workday maintaining mail-processing equipment. He and his wife, Beth, have lived in Stonehaven for 11 years. Myers, 60, is on the cusp of retirement, but that last child in college is keeping him working a while longer. When he’s finally free and clear, he said, all his plans include working with bees. For anyone who is not a beekeeper, it might make you wonder: What is the hook? This question prompted a call to George McAllister, president of the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association. McAllister is the keeper of a dozen hives, which he tends on the deck of his home in Foxcroft. “Beekeeping is like playing chess. You are constantly solving problems that could pop up in the future,” McAllister said. He explains that there is almost a Zen feeling about beekeeping that makes time stand still when he’s working in a hive. “All my senses are absorbed.” McAllister was Myers’ mentor when Myers first came to the Beekeepers Association three years ago as a novice to take a beginners class. Myers’ potential was evident, McAllister said. “What’s interesting about Sammy is that he understands that beekeeping is an ongoing learning process,” McAllister said. Most beginners spend only their first year with their mentor. Myers has signed up to have McAllister mentor him every year since he started tending bees. Not all beginning beekeepers are as passionate as Myers, but plenty from Mecklenburg County want to give it a try. Last year, the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association had more than 350 members, making it the largest county association in the country. Myers, who grew up outside Rock Hill in the town of Leslie, had a taste of beekeeping as a child: His grandfather kept bees, and Myers never forgot his fascination. Four years ago, a co-worker asked if he could keep a hive in Myers’ backyard.“I couldn’t stay out of that hive, it was so interesting to me,” Myers said. Today he has seven hives: two in his backyard, one in Derita, two in a friend’s yard off Sharon Amity Road and two at that same friend’s property in the mountains in Elk Park. Unfortunately, the wet and cool weather this spring has been detrimental to honey production in the region. Myers was only able to take 70 pounds of honey to sell. Last year he had twice that amount. But he’s not dwelling on it; there is much to do to prepare the bees for winter and for next spring’s honey flow. Maybe it’s the hope of what the future might bring that keeps a beekeeper going. “The sign of a good beekeeper is that he always wants to improve,” McAllister said.
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013
Charlotte novice beekeeper goes all in for his hives
Learn more: For information on beekeeping, contact the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association, www.meckbees.org. Meetings are the third Thursday of each month. Beginner beekeeping course starts January 2014; visit the website in December to sign up.
Nancy Thomason is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Nancy? Email her at email@example.com.
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