Posted by: Pam B. Newberry | November 22, 2010

Where did it begin…

One afternoon in February, my darling husband of 32 years came through the door after a long day at work and proceeded to tell me he was thinking about starting a bee farm and purchasing the needed bee equipment.

Hobbit King (one of my nicknames for him) had been looking for a while for something to do on our farm of seven acres.

View from Desk

View from my desk looking out to a portion of our farm

This announcement was exciting to hear and yet I felt a since of “what on earth will I do if I get stung?” type thoughts. I had no idea that later in the summer, I’d get bitten by a black snake. So, you see, now, my fear of being bitten is warranted.

A Friday in late September, we drove to North Wilkesboro, NC to purchase our hives from the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm (URL:  The bee hives were packed in six or eight small boxes.

I asked Hobbit King, “So, will the bee hives expand to open?”

He looked at me with one of those smiles he so lovingly gives when I’m not totally aware of what I’m asking and said, “Ah, no. The bee hives still have to be put together.” He went on about packing the truck.

“Are you saying the bee hives don’t come already put together?”

“That’s right.”

“So, when do we have to do the building and are their instructions?” I knew that my husband was notorious for working on something first and reading directions last.

“We won’t have to worry about that for a while.”

I replied, “Really?”

On the ride home, I began to ponder about what we were getting into with this bee farming thing. At the time, I was extremely unhappy with my job and wondered what a change in career would do for me. What little I had read on honey bees, I knew that at times the hives swarm. In hindsight, I believe at that moment I decided I needed a change. I needed a new environment, a new direction, a new focus–much like a bee colony that is preparing to separate or swarm and forms an additional new queen. A portion of the hive will move on with the new queen to form a new hive and start a new colony. I, too, was becoming a “new” queen by making the decision to leave my job, to go out and try my hand at a new adventure.

Sunday, October 17 was the hallmark moment of that change, that transformation, that metamorphosis. I quit my job after eight years of dedicated service to an idea born out of the mind of a teacher, who was my boss, and had become a dear friend and mentor. On Monday, October 18, Hobbit King and I attended our first of eight honey bee classes that is being conducted by the Carroll County Extension office in Hillsville, VA. The instructors of the class are Dr. Richard Fell of VA Tech, Webb Flowers (an appropriate name for an extension agent, don’t you think), and Benny Quesenberry, a local bee keeper. During the first class, they showed slides and information about honey bees in general. We, along with the other participants in the class, began to understand that raising honey bees is really as individual as each of us. Mr. Flowers repeatedly said, “There is no one way to raise honey bees.”

Since that first class, we joined the Mountain Empire Beekeepers Association (MEBA) as well as our state organization. Hobbit King acquired a very nice book on bees, The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture: The premier beekeeping information source since 1877, Forty-First Edition published by The A. I. Root Company (URL: and is reading it as often as he can. I have spent time gathering research and studying as well (see some of my links on the side bar).

Two weeks ago, we attended our first meeting of the MEBA along with about forty or so other souls. I was surprised at the number of people involved with honey bees in our area. I had no idea. For me, finding honey in the grocery store was generally all I ever thought about when it came to bees; except when I worked in my garden, I would stop and marvel at them working so hard, but I never really thought or even tried to learn about them beyond that few moments. The passion and love as well as keen desire of the beekeepers in attendance at the meeting inspired me. Their discussion of the life and death of bees, a true connection to life in general, caused me to think as I listened to the inevitable parallels. The highlight of the evening was when Bernie, the President, conducted a knowledge quiz. Here are four for you to try:

  1. At what temperature does a colony of bees form a well-formed cluster even though they may begin to huddle together in small groups as the temperature drops?

              a. 45 deg F     b. 62 deg F     c. 54 deg  F     d. 57 deg   F      e. 37 deg  F

2. Regardless of the ambient temperature, when bees cluster the temperature in the brood nest is

a.       93 to 95 deg F  
b.      42 to 44 deg F
c.       34 to 35 deg F
d.      Unknown

3. At what temperature does the bee colony cluster as small as possible and regardless of the drop in outdoor temperature cannot get any smaller?

a.  45 deg  F    b. 62 deg  F    c. 54 deg  F    d. 57 deg  F   e. 37 deg  F

4. What is the purpose of bees forming in a cluster?

a.      Bees like to gather in a group
b.      Bees cluster to make honey and communicate
c.       Bees use the cluster to stay warm and feed during winter months
d.      No one really knows

(Answers to these will be provided in the next blog – so come back for more…)

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Well, that’s all for now…come back again real soon…I hope to provide you with more insights to the life of honey bees as we learn more about them. I also plan to provide pictures of our work as we begin to build the hives.

If you like what you are reading, it would be great if you let me know by placing a comment or clicking on the “like this post” icon. If there is a topic you’d like to know more about, please let me know that too!

Have a glorious week and a blessed Thanksgiving!

Honey Cheers to You!
Hobbit Queen


  1. Well, I’ve had corn meal and water from hobbit’s bend so why not honey. Dear friend, I can’t wait to hear about your journey.


    • Hey Girl Friend! I am so pleased to hear from you! Miss you much! Thanks for your comment. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as I share this little adventure. Take care and hope to see you out in the world sometime real soon!


  2. Loved it!!! What a great post, and a great adventure for you, too so far.


    • Thanks Loads…Please come back and read more. I look forward to hearing from you!

      Hobbit Queen


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