Sarah Red-Laird – Bee Girl
Sarah 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?
I live in Ashland, Oregon. On the West coast of the US, about 15 miles north of the California border.
How did you get started with beekeeping? and why?
I guess I was born a beekeeper. I just always knew that I would grow up and keep bees. Everything about them just drew me in. I started beekeeping when I was a student at the University of Montana in Missoula. I began by studying Colony Collapse Disorder for a research project. Before I knew it, I had a job in the bee lab and the rest is history.
How many hives do you have currently and how many did you start off with?
I started with one in 2009. After my winter losses, I have 16 – but hope to build back up to about 35 this Spring.
Are you working on your own? Does Sophie (your dog) get along good with your the bees?
I do most of the work on my own. I am so busy and around so many people teaching and working with kids, that it is nice to have some solace in the bee yard. Sophie is always with me, however, she is terrified of the bees. She never minded them until she got two good stings to the face in the almond orchards in California last year. Now she keeps as much space as possible. She likes to lay in the shade of my truck, or watch from afar in the hay field.
What’s your favorite part of beekeeping? and the least favorite?
My most favorite is how connected it makes me feel to the world around me. My bees are sick when someone is not treating the environment well, and they do well when our surroundings are chemical free, well watered, and healthy. I also know that they pollinate the food and wildflowers for people and wild animals where ever we are. If I take good care of my bees, they gift me with honey at the end of the year. I love the sounds they make and how they smell when they are happy. I tell them everything. It is nice to know they will always keep my secrets. My least favorite is treating for Varroa mites. I know it has to be done, but the treatments are hard on them as well as the mites.
Aren’t you afraid of being stung?
Nope. I’m used to it. I think I might even like it!
Are you witnessing any colony collapse in your area? Does your hives suffer this phenomenon?
Nope. Our losses are from Varroa, chemical poisonings, climate change, and habitat issues. It’s easy to diagnose these losses, I haven’t seen any CCD per sais.
What kind of flowers, trees or plants does your environment offer to your lovely bees?
Vetch, clover, star thistle, black berries, locust trees, and wild flowers.
I understand you are very involved in a mission to provide education and support for beekeepers and communities, can you tell us a bit more about that, why and how did all started?
Yes, aside from keeping bees most of my time is spent on education. I am very passionate about engaging the public. Our everyday choices, especially when it comes to food, affect our environment and our bees. If no one is letting the community know how they are hurting bees, how are they to know? I also work a lot with new beekeepers. If someone gets a hive and just abandons it, I see that as abusive. I make sure new beekeepers are confident and have all the tools they need to treat their girls right.
Are you working exclusively in the US or abroad too?
This year I made the journey to Wales in the UK to deliver the keynote address at the International Bee research Association’s launch of their BEEWORLD Project. I was shortly thereafter named “US Ambassador” of the project. We are currently working on ways to engage all of the countries involved through new media and good ol’ fashion letters, as well. I’m so happy to be involved with this project, and hope to do much more work abroad.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
Oh wow… I never saw myself here one year ago, so I don’t know. Just this year I’ve traveled to the UK as well as all over my own country, working with thousands of kids and talking to hundreds of adults. I’m currently packing my bags to fly across the country and speak to beekeepers in New York City, and tour the famous rooftop bee hives. The sky is the limit, I guess! As long as my bees are happy and there is love in my life I have succeeded.