I often get asked what I do when I am not working. For many years, that was a hard question to answer. My first career was in the U.S. Navy, where I spent a lot of time at sea on a submarine and led a very busy life. What little time I had at home was spent with my wife and three children, who kept us plenty busy. My wife
and I moved around a lot, which also made having any hobbies challenging. Our move to Arkansas last year was move No. 19 in 33 years of marriage. However, when I turned 50, I made a pledge to myself to start learning how to make things that we all take for granted every day — like how to make homemade biscuits, how to brew beer, how to make a perfectly smoked brisket, and how to raise bees and harvest honey.
In 2019, while we were living in Missouri, my father-in-law, Dwayne Bonser, from Keokuk, Iowa, set me up with my first two beehives. I purchased a “nuc” of Russian bees and a “nuc” of Carniolan bees. A “nuc” is a nucleus colony of bees that is essentially a mini beehive with five frames of bees and, most importantly, a queen bee. That first year went great; I got honey off both hives and thought this beekeeping gig is pretty easy. I got a reality check in February 2020 when an overnight cold spell sent temperatures down to minus-8 degrees in Missouri, freezing one of my hives. But God was good to me, and, about two months later, I found a swarm of bees and scooped them up and transplanted them to my open hive.
A new home
We then moved to Arkansas, and things got interesting. We moved in May, and it was 90 degrees the day I transported the bees. It was one of those days that you never forget. I had secured my bees into my hives
the night before after watching a dozen YouTube videos on how to transport beehives. I intended to get on the road early for the four-hour drive from Springfield to Little Rock. However, delays with the moving truck had us leaving in the heat of the day. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I hit something in the road in Greenbrier and got a flat tire on my trailer. I pulled over into a large parking lot to change the tire only to find that the spare was with the moving company in a semi-truck far away. Each beehive has somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 bees, and I had two of them sitting in the back of a pickup truck, sweltering in the heat on a blacktop parking lot with no spare tire and no place close to get one. This was also in the early days of COVID-19, so nearly everything was closed. I finally found a Firestone that was open in Conway and had my son-in-law, Jacob Orbin, take the tire to get it replaced while I guarded the truck. You see, I am also a hunter, so I had a truck full of guns and ammo because the movers wouldn’t take those. There is something galactically comical about a truck full of guns, lots of ammo and 100,000 very hot, angry bees. There is also something galactically frustrating about that, and I may have even uttered a few words that mandated a trip to church that Sunday to clear things up with God.
We made it to Little Rock, but the bees did not enjoy the journey, and one of those hives immediately
swarmed away. I got word that there was a local beekeeper, Lauren Anderson, who had some Hawaiian bees that I could purchase. Lauren and her grandfather Bill Kramer (who i am told reads this magazine faithfully) were a pleasure to meet, and their Hawaiian bees that I purchased have been my best hive yet. I insulated the heck out of that hive this winter – they are Hawaiian after all – and they survived the freezing temperatures this February.
I am scheduled to get more bees May 1 from Bemis Honey Bee Farm in Little Rock, which will bring us back up to three hives. I have learned a lot about bees in the last two years and made a lot of mistakes along the way, proving I have a lot more to learn. Next on my list is to join a local bee club in the Benton-Bryant area where we live so I can continue learning. I called this article “Vitamin Bee” because my recent experience in beekeeping has been very good for me. It has reminded me that I have a lot to learn in life. The hardworking honeybee has humbled this CEO and given me some great life lessons. You are never too old to learn. You don’t know it all, no matter how much you think you know. You can learn from everyone you meet. And finally, simple things in life, done perfectly, can yield amazing results.