The Story of a... Beekeeper

With dozens of hives to watch over, JEAN VASICEK, 50, owner of Winter Park Honey, stays as busy as a…well, you know.



Photo By Norma Lopez Molina

My brother gave me a beehive and it sat in my yard for six years until I got kind of curious about honey. Someone from the Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association taught me how to extract honey out of my hive and it was the best stuff I’d ever tasted. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now.

I have close to 120 hives. My apiaries cover all around Central Florida, from Apopka to the Disney area. In Florida you can extract honey pretty much all year.

I have a degree in physics. Before I was a beekeeper I worked for NASA and other aerospace companies.

I’ve been stung thousands of times. When you’re doing bee rescues and removals you get stung a lot. When I first started getting stung, I couldn’t see out of my eyes, my jaw would swell. I looked horrible. But the more you get stung the less you swell.
 
I cut the tip of my finger off once. I went to the emergency room where the doctors said they didn’t think they could successfully sew it back on; so, I went home. I cured it myself by dipping my finger in honey four or five times a day for 10 minutes. Honey is a natural antibiotic.

Bees live for around 30 days. I visit my bees once a week. I don’t think that’s enough time for them to get to like me. But what happens is that I’m not afraid of them, and they sense that. 

If there’s a blossom, then there’s a honey that’s made from it. People can’t believe there’s such a thing as avocado honey.

You start off with an empty hive. Find a field that has nothing in it, except for a single flower species that is blooming fast and strong, and put the bees in the middle of it. When the blooming stops, you have to extract the honey or it will get mixed with other flowers’ nectar.

German queens, Australian queens, small and black, big and orange. I have about every type of bee in my hive.

Most beekeepers in the U.S. have become migratory beekeepers where they’re doing pollination instead of honey production. When they move bees across the country, north to south, east to west, it makes the bees sick. Then mites could give them viruses, the bees die and things like the food chain go out of control. Primarily, this is the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Einstein said if the bee disappeared from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live. A lot of the produce in the grocery store that we’re just used to grabbing from the shelves won’t be there. It’s a domino effect; when one thing goes away a lot of other things go with it.

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