FREE LOCAL PICKUP!

Our Story

How do you sum up 40 years of beekeeping? Around 1980, Dad was at a friend’s house in the Surrey area, and saw his friend’s dad , Wilbur Johnston, working with his honey bees. Dad was amazed by the bees, and this is when he got started with his first hive. A couple of his close friends, Mark Beckwith and Jim Stevens, also thought this was cool and got their own hives. They found they didn’t have the time to take care of everything, so they gave them to Dad. At this point he went from one hive to three. For the first four years, he only used a ski jacket and gloves…no bee suit! His first swarm was caught while the construction of the Alex Fraser bridge was underway. The swarm was in an old wood building that had been used as a fish shack. The workers that were building the bridge didn’t want to kill them so found a bee keeper to remove them. The bees had made their home in the walls between the 16” studs. They cut open the wall and started removing the hive in buckets. They pulled out about 200 lbs of honey. In 1982, Dad went into a bee store and the owner mentioned that he needed find a bee keeper that had 8 hives. Dad said he had 4 and the store owner said, “Buy 4 queens and split your hives. Then you will have 8 and will be able to do the pollination contract. Queens are about $10 each and you will get $20 per hive for pollination, plus then you will have 8 hives”. That was Dad’s first time splitting and pollinating. A short time later, he was speaking with the same store owner. He was now looking for a bee keeper that had 16 hives available to pollinate cranberries. Dad had 8 hives, so he purchased 8 queens and made 8 more hives. This time he received $25 per hive for pollination. He was using a cube van for moving the bees and a camping van with no tie downs…learn as you go. Over time he grew his business to 500 hives and needed a bigger truck. He purchased a 1970 Chevy 5 ton flat deck with 366 motor; the cab lifted to work on it which was handy - Dad paid $1,000 for this green beauty. One of his most exciting memories was in about 1986. At this point Dad kept his bees up north by Dawson Creek. He had them stacked about 8 boxes high hoping for lots of honey. He checked the hives and could hardly reach the top box. The lid was stuck on so firmly he thought to himself that he couldn’t remember screwing the lid on. Finally the lid popped off! The boxes were full of honey all the way to the top box. Around 1990, Dad built all his own equipment in the yard. Making all the boxes, frames and foundations for 200 hives was quite a task. I remember going with him to Vancouver Island to buy a new Ford truck for $6000, a 5 ton flat deck with a crane mounted to the back of the deck. He would now be able to fit about 100 hives per truckload, and be able to use two trucks at a time (until the Chevy literally died). That year, he took all of his hives back up to Dawson Creek for the honey flow. He said it was amazing! All the brand new boxes he had just built were full of honey, and the brand new frames were filled with perfect white caps of wax. On his way home with his truck fully loaded with all the honey, he pulled over to sleep for the night as it was a 20 hour trip each way. After a good night’s rest, he woke, started to drive and put a cd in…unfortunately while he was doing that, he slowly veered off the road. Going literally about 15 km an hour, he went off the road and slowly over the edge, rolling the truck with all the new honey boxes full of honey. Dad was hit in the head with a tool box during the rollover, and lost countless boxes and honey. A Greyhound bus driver pulled over to check if he was ok. He said it was so confusing to watch as it all happened so slowly. The windshield popped out and was somewhat crushed on the sides. Dad called home to let us know that he had been delayed and would be home soon. He never worried Mom and I about anything like this. He had a tow truck roll him back over and pull him back up onto the road. He then had to re-load the truck with what was left of all the honey boxes, and try to figure out how to get a windshield back onto the truck. He used black electrical tape around the inside of the windshield to get it to stay in place temporarily. He refilled all the oil that had leaked out from being upside down. He made it home! Dad found a new junker for $500 that he bought to switch truck cabs so that he would be able to go back a week later to get the rest of his bee hives. Dad took the serial number off the old cab and put it on the new purple one; he said he just thought it was a good idea. The evening that the truck was finished being fixed, one of the repairmen, Jon Moreton, asked when he was heading back up north. Dad said “now”. Jon climbed in. Another repairman named Chris Lockwood said “you will never make it all the way there and back!” On their way home fully loaded with all the hives, they pulled into the weigh scale and were fined $750 for being overweight. He would have received a larger fine if the serial numbers hadn’t been switched from the old cab to the new one. The DOT asked why the truck cab was a different color and Dad explained he switched cabs. The gentleman didn’t look impressed and then said that the serial numbers better match what was on his registration. Phew! They asked dad to reorganize the load - move some of the heavier hives to the front and lighter to the back. That was until they realized the live bees were flying and ready to sting. Then they were told to leave immediately. Finally, after driving 20 hours each way, they were only about 15 minutes away from the bee yard and Dad said, “and they said we wouldn’t make it!” He chuckled, and just then the two rear tires exploded. They blew up so badly that the bolts for the tires snapped off as well. Dad figures he might have had about 26,000 lbs on the axel. So they put down the down riggers and took the tires off. It was now 10 pm at night and the tire shop opened at 7 am and would be able to give them replacement tires then. Unfortunately the police contacted my dad and asked for the truck to be moved immediately. He was told that if he didn’t have the truck moved by 5 am that it would be towed - yes, full of live bees. There was absolutely nothing more dad could do without tires so he had to wait and hope they didn’t tow him. The truck was towed with the down riggers all the way down. When the tow truck lifted the back of the truck up, they cracked the frame which wasn’t discovered until about a year later. The down riggers dragging while towing also broke the brake drum. After the truck was picked up, they had to get it repaired as soon as possible because there were 200 hives full of unhappy bees about to start flying…and stinging. Chris Lockwood, the recently pessimistic mechanic, came to the tow yard to fix the brake drum. He was a real champ, laying there getting stung in the heat. He receives a lifetime of free honey for all the help and roadside repairs. After going to court, Dad won the repair for some of the damage the tow truck driver did to the brakes and down riggers. In 1991, about a year after the rolling incident, Dad had just dropped bees off in Richmond, BC for cranberry pollination and was pulling out of the bee yard, when the 4’ behind the rear tire of our flat deck truck fell off. This is where the frame had cracked the year before and went unnoticed…it was very much noticeable now. Dad used a chain and the crane to pull the back end up in place and hold it there. They had one weigh scale to visit in Hope, BC before arriving at their destination in Enderby, BC. They made it and immediately had the truck repaired. I asked Dad if he ever felt like giving up, as these are just a few of the experiences that he has had. He said that he would consistently blow 4-6 tires every trip. He said when he rolled his truck full of all his brand new handmade equipment, he almost gave up then. Once when he took 110 hives to a field to drop off with his dad, they took all the straps off and then needed to pull the truck forward a little. Dad thought he’d go really slow, but one of the tires went in a deep hole. They lost about 50 hives off the sides, and the ones that didn’t fall off had all shifted and slid apart. Another time he found the perfect bee yard near Harrison Hot Springs. It looked to be a perfect meadow, sunk down enough that the hives wouldn’t be noticeable to people driving by, and no trees just meadow so the bees would have full sun. He left them for about 3 weeks and returned to pick them up with Mark Beckwith. He stopped a ways out and told Mark to hop out and look over the embankment to see what a beauty spot he had chosen. Mark hopped out, look out down into the meadow and started yelling, “oh no… they’re all gone”. They raced down to where the hives were. The meadow was so lovely because it was a dry lake bed…that had now filled up. There was only about 4” of the lids showing out of the water. They raced into the water and pulled a lid off…it was a hive that was still alive and angry. They ran out of the water getting stung. They were only able to save about 10 hives out of 110. I reminded dad of another disappointing time. He had received 100 queens that belonged to a store owner. Dad made 100 packages of bees weighing exactly 3 lbs each and on the weekend he was to put the queens in and deliver them back to the store for sale. Dad would have been paid about $2,000 for making the packages. Mom forgot the queen bees were in the oven and turned it on, killing all of the queens. I will never forget how frantic she was when she noticed. We went to the Eatons store that was being renovated where Dad was doing the flooring. She told my Dad of her mistake. I will never forget how calm he was, but looked very disappointed. He had to dump out all of the packages that he made in front of his hives and hope some of them would live. He also had to tell the store owner what happened and pay him $1,000 for the queens that died. Another year he lost 350 hives to bears. In 2001, when we first moved to Invermere, Dad had about 550 hives and decided not to medicate. He lost all but 65 to foul brood. The bee inspector and him burned everything that was infected, so all of the hive equipment was lost as well. After this happened, a farmer called and asked for 30 hives for pollination. He told the farmer he wasn’t interested, but the persuasive farmer talked him into it. He drove to the Coast for pollination. The very day he returned home, another farmer called looking for 30 hives as well; he was also persuasive, so Dad went back to the Coast and put another 30 into pollination. In 2013 I started to try out some markets with Baby Root and asked Dad if I could bring some honey. People liked it! In 2014 Dad said to me, “one of the farmers can’t afford to pay for pollination and offered me a bunch of blueberries. Do you think you could sell some?” I thought about it for a second and said, “sure, I’ll try Dad”. Blueberries were a big hit! In 2015 Weaver’s Bee Co. joined the Invermere Farmers Market and have found joy serving the lovely community we live in. In 2016, I left my full time job to join my Dad, Steve Root (my husband and bee keeper) and Mom to help with the family business. A lot of things have changed over the years since Dad first started with one hive, but one thing that has stayed consistent is his love for the bees. He has now taught Steve over the last 7 years and it will be a real gift for him to teach his grandchildren as well. These are just a few of his adventures from over the years, there are many more. ~ Shannon

Comments 0

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Read more