They wear those funny looking white jump suites, with large mesh hats, and can be found poking around in bee hives. For those looking to become a beekeeper, the process has become a lot easier.
Blake Shook of Melissa, the owner of Texas Bee Supply and Desert Creek Honey in Blue Ridge, will start offering beekeeping classes this year.
“We teach you how to keep bees,” Shook said. “We have six different classes just on weekends starting in February going into September. So if you want to come learn about bees we’ll teach you all about beekeeping.”
The educational classes will take students into bee hives and show them exactly what they have to do to care for bees and how to extract honey from the hive.
Shook got the idea for the classes from his childhood.
“I got started in beekeeping through a company a lot like this,” he said. “It was a small, family-owned company, they taught beekeeping classes, they help people get started in beekeeping and that kind of got me to where I am today, and so I’m passionate about beekeeping.”
At just 12 years old, Shook started his first hive. After graduating high school in Blue Ridge, he grew Desert Creek Honey into a business and now sells about half a million pounds of honey each year.
When asked why he decided to start Texas Bee Supply, a business that supplies people with beekeeping supplies and holds classes, Shook said it’s all because he wants to help grow the industry.
“You know the bee population is declining very rapidly and so being passionate about bees, we’re looking beyond our own competitors and we want to help the industry,” he said. “We want to help beekeepers, we want to help bees. We’re willing to get as many people started in it as we can because that is going to help the industry in the long run.”
The plight of the honey bee is well known. Over the past decade honey bee population numbers have drastically declined. According to the Bee Informed Partnership website, from April 2015 to March 2016, beekeepers lost 44.1 percent of their colonies.
“This high rate of loss is close to the highest annual loss rate over the six years we have collected annual colony loss numbers,” the website says.
Shook cares for about 5,000 hives in the Melissa and Blue Ridge areas, and said he’s concerned about colony loss.
“We’re seeing huge population die offs — just last summer alone we saw a 40 percent decline in the bee population, which is huge,” Shook said. “I mean … we use to be at 6 million hives in the U.S. and we’re now at about 2.5 million hives.”
Educating the public on how to keep bees is Shook’s goal, and he hopes the classes will encourage people to take up beekeeping.
“That’s one of the greatest things we can do, is have more and more people raising honey bees because that helps bring our population back up and so that’s one thing that we hope to be able to do is get more people into beekeeping to help those numbers in the long run,” he said.
The Desert Creek Honey will host a free, open-to-the-public tour of its honey processing facility on Feb. 25. For more information on the classes visit www.TexasBeeSupply.com.