By Kristin Finney
Greene Publishing, Inc.
One could say that bee keeping runs in the family. One could even say that keeping bees is a way of life. But no matter what is said, being in the bee business is no easy task. From maintaining hives to harvesting honey, from building new hives to preventing a hive from swarming, the list of things that must be done is seemingly endless.
Paul Sheffer has made it his business to become a part of the bee business, and has been involved with bees for 37 years. He began working with bees after meeting a new girlfriend, his wife now. His father-in-law was the largest beekeeper in their home state of Michigan, with a whopping 6,000 hives.
While Mr. Sheffer’s personal hive count is nowhere near that extensive, he maintains about 100 hives.
His love for the bees is as strong as ever.
Along with the help of his wife, Karen, Sheffer began his bee business in Florida. They moved from Michigan in search of a better place to raise the bees, and found that in Madison. It was in Madison that the Sheffer’s began their family. They have four daughters, Jessie (Juan Jose) Barahona, Margaret (Brian) MacFarlane, Janet Sheffer and Katie (Derek) Miller. They also have four grandchildren: Amaria (Jessie and Juan Jose) Barahoma, Seth (Margaret and Brian) MacFarlane, and Rowan and Ceridwyn (Katie) Griffis.
Sheffer’s bees are not simple honeybees; he has Italian, Carniolan, Russian and Caucasian bees. In each of his 100 hives there is one queen. She is easily distinguished from the others because her body is long and slender. The worker bees are all females. This means that whenever someone sees a bee in a flower, that is a female bee.
There are anywhere from 20,000-80,000 bees per hive depending on the season. The stronger the hive the more honey that they will produce. The idea is to build the hive up as strong as possible without it swarming, which means that over half of the worker bees as well as the queen leave the hive. A hive will die out if it swarms. A healthy hive can produce anywhere from 50-200 lbs of honey depending on the strength of the hive and the amount of bees.
Sheffer not only produces honey from his bees, he also rents his bees to farmers to pollinate their fields. Bees help crops grow healthier and has also been proven to increase the total amount of crops harvested during a season.
When asked what he would say to people who were afraid of bees, Sheffer replied, “Everyone always tells me that bees don’t like them. But most of the time if a bee is around you, especially women, it is because they like the smell of your perfume. Then people out of fear will swat at the bees, which aggravates the bees just like it would aggravate you if someone was swatting at you. I understand being afraid, but don’t swat at them because that is what makes you get stung. Just try to get away from them as quickly as you can.”
Bee stings do not even faze Sheffer. He has been stung almost anywhere a person can imagine. He even recalled a time that a bee flew into his ear canal. At first he was going to go to the emergency room and have them remove it, but he decided that the bee would come out eventually. When he got back home he could feel the bee was close to the outer edge of his ear and got a pair of tweezers and pulled it out. He stated, “It was crazy because the bee didn’t even sting me.”
If you or someone you know gets stung by a bee there are a few ways to handle it. First off one must understand what causes the swelling and pain when a bee stings them. When a bee stings a person, their stinger falls off and remains on the persons skin at the sting site. Inside of the stinger there is poison, that is what causes the pain and swelling. If you simply try to grab the stinger and pull it out then it will push all of the poison into you and cause swelling and pain. However, if you take a credit card or your fingernail and run it horizontally over the site and scrape the stinger off then the majority of the poison will not enter your body.