Hilary thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me! Beekeeping is a very interesting topic I’m sure that our readers at Apis Cera would like to know more about.
Apis Cera: Can you tell us where you live and how old you are?
Hilary: I live in San Diego, California USA and I am 27.
Apis Cera: How and why did you get started with beekeeping?
Hilary: When I met my boyfriend he had a list of things he wanted to do in his life on his wall and I saw that beekeeping was one of the things and I thought it was weird and interesting so I bought him a beginners book for his birthday but I read it and just got sucked in. The more I researched the more interested I became and I just decided to start doing it.
Apis Cera: How many hives do you have currently and how many did you start off with?
Hilary: I started with one hive that I caught as a swarm. It failed soon after because it turned out not to have a queen. By the end of that summer I think I had 4 hives. I now have 20.
Apis Cera: How many bees are in your hives?
Hilary: It ranges from 25,000 to probably 60,000. In the summer, large hives can have as many as 100,000 bees.
Apis Cera: What’s your favorite part of beekeeping?
Hilary: My favorite part about beekeeping is the intimate connection with nature that comes with it. As a beekeeper, I pay closer attention to weather and what plants are growing and I see other insects and pollinators and try to learn more about them as well. It reminds me of being a kid again. I get to spend hours studying these small insects trying to understand them.
Apis Cera: Aren’t you afraid of being stung?
Hilary: Of course. I am not sure that ever goes away. I think it is an primoridial fear that is deeply embeded in us. The funny thing is, the fear of being stung is much worse than actually being stung. Yes, it hurts but it usually only lasts a minute or two. It normally isn’t such a big deal and I almost want to laugh at all the anxiety I get. I know it’s not that bad and I get stung fairly often but it is very hard to completely master the fear.
Apis Cera: Are you witnessing any colony collapse in your area? Does your hives suffer this phenomenon?
Hilary: Once or twice I have seen the classic symptoms of CCD. It my belief that these syptoms only show when the bees are exposed to large amounts of Neonicotinoid pesticides (which I believe to be the cause of the global bee decline) and that my other colonies may be dying from exposure to sublethal amounts of this pesticide. When they are exposed to sublethal doeses of neonics, the bees immune system becomes compromise and they appear to die from other causes but the real cause is the pesticide. I can’t know which of my hives I lose to this pesticide at the sublethal level but considering that the pesticide is now used in many home products and all my hives are in urban and suburban settings I am kind of at the point where I assume most of my hives are exposed to the pesticide on some level. I often wish I had a labratory and personal scientist to help me study what’s happening to my hives.
Apis Cera: What kind of flowers, trees or plants does your environment offer to your lovely bees?
Hilary: There is a huge variety here and an almost year round nectar flow of some kind because we have such mild weather. There is a lot of buckwheat and Eucalyptus trees around and the bees love those flowers but it is hard to point to a dominant plant throughout the city because there is so much variety. Many of the people who host hives with me have fruit trees and they see a huge increase in the amount of fruit they get by sharing their yard with a beehive.
Apis Cera: What’s your personal favorite type of honey?
Hilary: I really don’t like varietal honeys very much because to me they indicate an unhealthy environment for the bees. When you get these flavors like orange honey, for example, it is because the bees were place in an area with predominantly one type of bloom, like on an orange grove. I think it’s better for the bees to have a variety of pollen and nectar available to them. You wouldn’t want to put your children on an orange only diet, so why would you do that to your bees? The best honey to buy is ‘Wildflower’ honey because it means that the bees had access to many different kinds of flowers. It is better for the bees and it creates a more nutritious honey for us as well.
Apis Cera: Where do you see yourself in one year?
Hilary: Well looking back to a year ago from now, I am pretty suprised at how far I have come. If I can make that kind of progress in this next year, who knows ! I at least hope I will have been able to quit my day job so that I can spend more time with my bees and the subjects I am passionate about. Ideally, I would like to be a beekeeper full time but if I can’t make that work, I would like to be able to do it part time and hopefully find another part time job that is related to art, environmentalist, teaching, local food or really anything that makes this city a better place.
Apis Cera: Anything else?
Hilary: If anyone wants to follow my beekeeping adventures, they should check out my Facebook page and/or my Instagram account !