How I Became a Beekeeper
Having left a farming life behind in Mexico, I never thought I would end up being involved with farming again like I have been these past five years since coming to PCFMA. I grew up farming with my dad planting corn, beans, Jamaica, and squash in Mayatecun, a small village in the state of Campeche, Mexico. My dad is a very hard worker. I would walk the two hours with him to the farm very early in the morning, and as soon as we arrived, we started working with our bare hands; we did not have any machinery to assist us. Each day felt as if it would never end. I thought deeply about my farming job every day when I was in Mexico. Why did I have to do this? Live like this?
Until one day, my friend Abiemael Herrera taught me how to be a beekeeper. After working with bees for a year, I convinced my dad to purchase our own bees, which was not an easy task. It was one thing to convince my parents that bees would be a more successful business for our family than farming. It was another trying to convince my dad that working with bees would be fun, despite the painful bee stings! However, my dad quickly realized how profitable bee keeping was, and together we bought our first 35 hives, later maintaining 200 to 300 hives a year for honey production, not pollination.
I began working with bees in California three years ago, while continuing my work as a Market Manager at PCFMA. Tending bees is more challenging now than 20 years ago. When we started caring for bees years ago a queen bee was able to live and produce offspring for 3 to 4 years. Now I notice that queens often die within one or two years. One of the greatest challenges of beekeeping is ensuring that there is an active, young queen in every box to maintain a strong colony.
Currently, I’ve been reading about colony collapse disorder (CCD) and watching documentaries that feature well-known beekeepers such as David Hackenberg. I often ask myself if bee colony collapse disorder is a real threat. And if it is, how serious is it? Working with bees on my days off from PCFMA is fascinating. A bee hive colony is much like our PCFMA family, very complex. In the box, there are bees bringing water, bringing nectar from the flowers, bringing pollen, maintaining the right temperature, and numerous other task.
On the other hand, bees have also prompted me to have many new questions I have yet to find answers to. I wonder how polluted our air is? What pesticides are being used to spray crops and flowers? And what exactly is the cause for my 150 lost hives this year? Talking to other beekeepers reminds me that I am not alone in my hive losses. Beekeepers from the South Bay like Peter from “All Honey Apiary” and Wendy from “The Honey Ladies” have told me that they have lost hives this year as well. However, it has inspired me to continue my research and investigation to find out more about what affects our essential California bee population.