A local teenaged beekeeper was the recipient of a national honor for his work.
Hayden Chrisman, 17, of Commerce, was named a “Blue Ribbon Beekeeper” by the Bayer Bee Care Program last month, an offshoot of the German pharmaceutical company. The award came with a plaque and a $1,000 prize, and winners are chosen to “recognize the outstanding achievements of young people who have made a positive impact on their communities through beekeeping or pollinator-related research.”
Hayden, who is the fourth-oldest out of 11 brothers and sisters, hasn’t been at it for long. He says that his family moved out of the city into the country about eight years ago, and it wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that the family got their first beehive. Hayden remembers how fascinated he was with the inner-workings of the hive when seeing it up close and personal.
“The hive really grabbed my attention,” Hayden said. “I wanted to learn more.”
To further educate himself on the art of beekeeping, he applied for and received a scholarship with the Collin County Hobby Beekeepers Association. He received his own hive and a lot of education on how to properly take care of it. To show how far he has come along in just a few short years, he now helps to run that same scholarship program, mentoring other aspiring beekeepers.
Hayden is now at an “Advanced” level of the Texas Master Beekeeper Program, which is the second of the four tiers. Hayden says that in addition to having a few years of experience in beekeeping, the requirements to reach that level include lots of tests and book knowledge of pollination, anatomy and other aspects. There is also a public service component, going out into the community to educate others.
Hayden says he has already been called on to speak to school groups about his profession.
Profession is the correct term to use here, rather than hobby, as Hayden is serious about this bee business. He manages more than 200 hives for Timber Creek Apiaries and writes numerous blogs about beekeeping tips on its website, with some of his writings getting more than 1,000 hits.
All-in-all, Hayden says that each hive produces an average of about 70 pounds of honey every year.
The job can be pretty passive, with Hayden saying that it doesn’t take a whole lot of day-to-day work. But he stressed that checking each hive every now and then to see if it is healthy is paramount to success.
“You have to check every so often that the hive and the queen are healthy,” Hayden said. “Their health is the most important.”
It’s quite a responsibility. The young beekeeper has lost hives before, and he says that those challenges have made him better prepared for the future.
What is really important though is education, with Hayden hoping to help the public realize the importance of the little buzzy creatures.
“A lot of people don’t realize how important bees are with food production,” Hayden said. “It’s not just fruits and vegetables. If cows don’t have crops to eat, then there is no meat either.”
Hayden stated that receiving the Bayer award was completely unexpected, and that he was “honored to be considered” for such a recognition. His father Jason added that beekeeping really sparked his son’s curiosity and has allowed him to “settle into a niche and grow a business of his own.”
Hayden said that a piece of advice he would give to an aspiring young beekeeper is to find an mentor and to not get discouraged.
“Find someone who can show the way,” Hayden said. “If you get the hive to survive past the first year, you are doing something right.”
Hayden says he wishes to attend Texas A&M University-Commerce and study business to learn how to expand the apiary into a full-scale operation.
Other recipients of the Blue ribbon Beekeeper award were Catherine Trusky of Chapel Hill, N.C., Jake Reisdorf of Carmel, Calif., Jonathan Murphy of Denison, Texas, Kate Riding of Redmond, Ore., Leo Schirokauer of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Tucker Leck of Neodesha, Kan.
The importance of the humble bee
These tiny creatures carry a large weight on their backs. Like Atlas, forced to carry the weight of the celestial sphere on his shoulders, bees carry the well-being of humanity.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, bees pollinate about 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S., being responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. In addition, foods and substances derived from fruits and crops are also possible thanks to these puny pollinators. They have been called the “Guardians of the food chain.”
But all is not well in the hive. Bees are dying at alarming rates in the current millennium. According to a study from the University of Maryland, American beekeepers reported losing 41 percent of their honeybee colonies last year. The colony loss during the winter of 2018 was the largest on record, and the phenomenon has left many scratching their heads.
Factors such as global warming, crop pesticides and more have been attributed to the mass deaths, but no definitive scientific answer has been found.
Some high-tech solutions are being sought, but for now the question still goes unanswered.
Bee fun facts
— Honey bees can fly up to 15 miles per hour
— Their distinctive buzzing sound comes from their wings, which flap 11,400 times per minute
— Honeybees are the only insect in the world that produces food for humans
— Honeybees don’t sleep, and the queen bee can produce between 600-1,500 eggs per day
— Bees maintain a temperature of more than 90 degrees in their hive
— There are more than 20,000 bee species, about 4,000 of which are pollinators