Kent State student works at family bee farm, Stein’s Honey

Wes Stein, junior construction management major, stands in one of the wine aisles at 101 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, located on 115 North Willow Street where he works, Tuesday. He also works as a full-time bee-keeper. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Natalie Moses

When it comes to jobs, pretty much everyone has one. For college students, that usually means something pretty boring. Not many are working at their ultimate dream job at this point in their lives, but whatever pays the bills works. Some people make sandwiches, and some people answer phones, but not many people take care of hundreds of thousands of bees.

Wes Stein is a junior at Kent State, and he is certainly not your average beekeeper. As a technology major and thrower for the track team, he is obviously a very busy bee. Some days, he works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at his internship for Cornice Company Construction Managers. He then comes back to Kent for track practice, and later works at 101 Bottles of Beer on the Wall into the wee hours of the morning. Somehow, Stein still has time for 17 credit hours in addition to all of that. But with all of this work experience, the honey business remains his favorite—more specifically, his own honey business.

Stein’s Honey was established when he was 12, and Stein has been working there ever since. Bill Stein, Wes’s father, got involved in the business because his property in Norwalk, Ohio, had apple and peach trees that needed to be pollinated. From there it just kept growing and growing, Stein said. This spring, Stein’s Honey will have 480 hives all around Huron County, each housing about 50,000 bees.

“At one point, we had about 52,000 pounds of honey in the house,” Stein said. The honey is sold to small, usually family-owned grocery stores and farmers’ markets across northern Ohio, from Parma to Cleveland and all the way to Toledo.

Stein’s Honey does more than just what the name would suggest. “We also do pollination for apple orchards,” Stein said.

In order to produce more fruit, orchards will rent 100-150 hives from them in the springtime. Stein used to make candles from the beeswax, and one of their employees even makes lip balm. It is “like Burt’s Bees, only it’s ours. It’s called Steve’s Bees.”

So what exactly does the job of a beekeeper entail? Stein does everything from training new employees and harvesting the honey to everyday hive maintenance. At this time of year, the hives are being medicated.

“You have to put medication on them so that way the bees can get through the winter better. We also feed them sugar water right now,” Stein said.

Pretty soon, the bees will be back to work.

“Bees produce spring into summer to early fall. They stop producing in the early fall,” Stein said. There are two types of boxes used to store honey: brood boxes that stay out year-round and honey supers. The honey is extracted from the honey supers twice a year. The first harvest is around the fourth of July, and the second is near Labor Day.

“The second time we usually take off 30,000 pounds,” Stein explained.

Every beehive operates like a very structured business.

“There’s three main types of bees: worker bees, drone bees and queen bees,” Stein said.

He further explained that there is only one queen bee, and one percent of the bees are drones, which are the males. The majority of the hive is made up of female worker bees.

“The worker bees do everything from protecting the hives to taking care of the baby bees when they’re younger and collecting the honey. All the drones do is just mate.”

All of this is going on while the queen bee lays eggs all day. Stein said bees are fully equipped for their jobs.

“Bees have two stomachs: a honey stomach and a regular stomach. The honey stomach is where they store the nectar until they get back to the hives.”

They also follow flight patterns, like their own little GPS device, so they never get lost on the way home. “Bees always remember to go back to their hives,” Stein said.

Even though they are interesting and undoubtedly intelligent, bees are not cuddly. No one will ever accuse them of that, especially Stein. Don’t be fooled by the netted beekeeping gear that you’ve seen on TV before because it does not prevent all stings. Stein has been stung around 300 to 500 times each year—multiply that by nine years, and those are way too many bee stings. (Around 2,700 to 4,500 stings!)

What was Stein’s worst experience? “I was stung on the eyelid once, and it swelled my eye shut for a day.” Ouch.

Maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of Stein riding around campus on his motorcycle before, and maybe you’ve even had Stein’s Honey. However, you probably never guessed that the two were related. Next time you’re browsing for something sweet, don’t hesitate to try localized honey. It’ll keep you buzzing all day.

Contact Natalie Moses at [email protected].