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I learned beekeeping at 11 years old in Boy Scouts. My grandfather bought my first hive and I kept him supplied with comb honey. I was mentored by a neighbor that was a commercial beekeeper. I grew to 25 hives in a couple years from swarms and splits. I was selling commercial quantities of honey to Hungry Bear restaurant in Orlando within two years. My dad drove me to my hives in groves. I paid cash from my first years sales for an extracting setup with a motorized extractor and capping melter. By the time I got my drivers license, my father decided to start beekeeping too. He bought 25 hives and we each kept half in the groves we were using. I gave my father all my beekeeping hives and equipment when I joined the Marine Corps in 1980. When I came back to Florida, there was a feral colony in the tree of the house I was renting. I convinced the owner to let me save them. Within weeks, he was over his fear and enjoyed coming over to mow around the hive and check on the girls. My dad told me about the Master Beekeeping program so I started working through the program after a year of getting back into beekeeping. I teach about bees and beekeeping at the local schools and the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens in Tampa. We have held one class every month since last April. The articles in the Tampa Tribune, St. Pete Times and USF Oracle were a little misquoted. There is only so much you can teach a reporter in 60 minutes. Fox news has asked for a story but the earthquake in Haiti is taking precedence. May your bees be calm and your supers heavy!
Gary VanCleef
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