Honeybee Hoopla- Meet the Beekeeper

A Q & A with Beekeeper, Chris Fenstermaker

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What’s black and yellow and sticky all over? The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is all abuzz, getting ready for our Honeybee Hoopla, a Family Fun Day celebrating the honeybee. Taking place this Saturday, August 19, Honeybee Hoopla will feature fun, educational activities, and, for the first time, a special presentation from Chris Fenstermaker, the Maintenance Coordinator at the Conservancy, who also happens to be a beekeeper. Whenever he’s not working at the Conservancy, Fenstermaker is taking care of honeybees, harvesting honey, and protecting the health of his beehive. We met with him for a brief Q & A.

Q: How did you learn your skills? Where did you become certified?

“I obtained a B.S. in Agricultural Operations and Management from the University of Florida. My official beekeeper training is through the UF Honey Bee Research & Extension Lab — I am certified as an Advanced Beekeeper of the Master Beekeeper Program.”

Q: What is your favorite part about beekeeping?

“I enjoy beekeeping because it gives me the opportunity to observe the characteristics of the individual honey bees, as well as characteristics and behaviors of an entire colony. I am continuously learning, from working with these superorganisms, which helps me to promote the importance of honey bees and other pollinators.”

Q: Where do you keep your bees? What kind of tools do you use?

“I keep my bees on 5 acres in Golden Gate Estates. A beekeeper needs a hive tool and a smoker, bee boxes aka “supers”, frames that contain the bees wax foundation that they build their comb from, a bottom board and hive cover, and a bee suit and veil is recommended for beginning beekeepers.”

Q: How did you acquire your bees?

“In 2005, I came across a feral colony of European Honey Bees in a Southern Red Cedar tree. I was aware of the importance of honeybees and the struggles that they endure. So, I purchased a few good books on beekeeping and the equipment necessary to house them. I then carefully transferred the honey bees into my bee boxes with the use of a smoker. With the honeybees in my bee boxes, I was able to monitor the health of the colony and provide them with assistance to remain healthy.”

Due to colony collapse disorder, the health of the honeybee population is in danger, and there is a growing need to protect the bee population. Why? Bees are vital to many ecosystems. Through pollination, bees keep essential plants and flowers alive, as well as disperse seeds for wildlife to consumer. But what can we do to protect the bees? According the Fenstermaker, one of the best ways to help the bee population is simple: plant more flowers and bee friendly plants.

To learn more about how you can protect the honeybee, attend Chris Fenstermaker’s presentation on Saturday, August 19 at 1:45 PM, here at the Conservancy. Kids 12 and younger get in free with a paying adult. (Up to four free kids per paying adult). See all of the Honeybee Hoopla Family Fun Day activities at www.conservancy.org/nature-center/family-fun-days.

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