By Troy Treasure
Karl Hostetler and Wade West have endured the stings. Both are beekeepers and in each case, it’s an interest developed in the last decade.
Working with Honey bees is neither gentleman’s main occupation. Hostetler is a sheep shearer, West a landscaper.
That’s not to say they don’t take the bee business seriously.
Hostetler resides east of Shelbyville. The owner of Golden Rule Bee Farm, he purchased two bee hives in 2012 for what was intended to be a hobby. However, by the next year he had 30. Hostetler has sold bees, and the products they produce, since 2014.
“I grew up terrified of stinging insects. I never thought I would be a beekeeper,” Hostetler said.
West and wife Abby own A & W Honey Bee Farm north of Shelbina. West recalled his reputation while a student at Macon High School as being a big man on campus.
“Now I go to my class reunion and people see me. They’re like, ‘Bees? You’re kind of like a dork now, Wade,’” West quipped.
There’s a common saying if you like sausage, don’t watch it being made. Honey is somewhat similar, but look that up yourself should you want to.
Fact is there are foods people consume that are 100-percent dependent on Honey bee pollination.
“There are varying thoughts on that. There’s a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that says if the bees disappear, humans will disappear in less than three years. I, personally, don’t feel that’s quite accurate,” Hostetler said.
“But there would be a lot of foods we eat every day that we wouldn’t have,” he added. “I personally think there would be repercussions we know nothing about. What these really are I don’t know, but I do feel bees are important to our ecosystem.”
West’s curiosity began with a mushroom hunt 10 years ago around his family’s fruit tree orchard near Axtell.
“We had some loggers come in. There was a hollow tree they didn’t take,” West recalled. “I was probably 20 yards away and heard this huge humming sound. I was like, ‘This is odd.’”
West went to get his father, Dan, and the rest is recent history. Wade estimated he is stung approximately 500 times a year.
“I’m not afraid of doing different things. I like the adrenaline (rush),” West said. “We’re going to have 225 hives on the ground here. Every spring, you open a hive up and I still get that same feeling like it was my first time.”
Hostetler and West both addressed dangers to bees, some natural … another man-made.
Colony Collapse Disorder is the result of a colony’s worker bees departing leaving the queen bee and a small number of nurse bees to care for immature ones. Another is Varroosis. The Varroa is a parasitic mite that sucks fat from bees.
Hostetler attributed most dangers to viruses associated with the mites. To a lesser extent, he worries about the effect of pesticides and thinks about it when observing airplanes overhead.
“Honestly, I’ve never seen any hard evidence that there was a problem with that in this area. There are people who say they have and I’m not going to argue with that at all,” Hostetler stated of pesticide use.
“I don’t put a lot of stock in what I read about what is happening on the west coast because I haven’t seen it myself.”
Abby West is not just a casual observer with her family’s operation. She helps with the hives, among many other tasks … including the production of lip balm from beeswax.
“I did a lot of research. I’m a big Pinterest person, looked at several different recipes,” she said. “It was a lot of trial and error and I found what worked best.”
Abby stated one batch of wax usually will make from 20 to 25 lip balm tubes.
Hostetler can be reached at (573) 633 2012. Contact information for the Wests is obtainable via the A & W Honeybee Farm’s Facebook page.