MILTON, Fla. — Scattered on one side of Bill Blankenship’s spacious Milton backyard are stacks of colorful boxes.
The man-made bee hives are Blankenship’s retirement passion. Beekeeping is a hobby that, over the years, has helped the 69-year-old take care of his variety of fruit trees.
Blankenship has kept pears, oranges, chestnuts, black walnuts, cherries, plums and grapes at his homegrown produce department. The bees that live in the more than two dozen hives on his property are his “employees,” the pollinators that produce the edible fruit from the trees.
“I like the way they work,” said Blankenship, who serves as vice president of the Santa Rosa Beekeepers Association. “It’s all for the hive. They have a good moral responsibility. They take care of themselves and each other. They’re loyal and respectful, too.”
The Santa Rosa Beekeepers Association is a 3-year-old organization with 85 registered beekeepers. Blankenship said some of the members have 400 hives. He’s down to 28 hives from 63, after losing some since November to insect spraying in the area.
In the hives are different types of bees, and each has its own role: queens, drones and workers. The queen lays the eggs. The drone, the males in the hive, have the sole role of mating with the queen. Drones don’t sting; only female bees sting. The worker bees live for six weeks and are the maintenance staff of the hive.
In a natural environment, bees will build hives in trees, storage sheds or in holes of brick walls.
“It’s the living organism there,” Blankenship said of the hive. “It’s a working unit, and everyone has a job, and it’s to better the living conditions and extend the life of the hive.”
As a beekeeper, Blankenship often receives calls from people who want hives removed from their property. He has equipment that allows him to reach up into trees, capture the bees and relocate them to a more desired place.
“It’s nice to have beekeepers in the area,” Blankenship said. “There’s chores to be done and you have honey as a reward.”
Information from: Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, http://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com