Oh honey, a stinging good time

Ted Hamilton

Residence hall director’s summer hobby is beekeeping

Joey Sammons, residence hall director of Koonce Hall, holds a jar of Kentucky Honey from where he works full-time as beekeeper in the summer. STEPHANIE J. SMITH | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Hollywood wants us to think of them as death swarms that descend on whole families. Cartoons want us to think of them as being able to take the shape of a mallet or an arrow. Children watch them and make sure not to get too close.

But to one man, honeybees are not something to fear. They are a regular part of his life.

Joey Sammons is the residence hall director of Koonce Hall during the majority of the year. During the summer, however, he has a unique hobby: he is a beekeeper.

“Bees aren’t what Hollywood portrays them as,” he said. “There are a lot of myths about bees swarming and other things that aren’t true.”

Sammons helps take care of 215 beehives in central Kentucky.

“A typical beehive has 40 to 60,000 bees, on average,” he said.

June and July are the two months beekeepers collect honey.

“You get the supers full of honey, bring them back to your bee house and process the honey,” he said.

Supers are wooden boxes filled with frames that hold a sheet of plastic or wax. The bees then produce wax and build honeycomb using the sheet as a foundation, he said. The bees then raise their brood and deposit honey in the comb.

However, the work for the beekeeper does not end there.

“You have to put (the honey) through an extractor funnel and then filter it before you bottle it,” Sammons said. “The way we market our honey is by going to different festivals.”

In one summer he said he sold 300 gallons of honey.

But beekeepers do more than make honey to sell.

“A lot of what beekeepers do is pollinate crops for people,” Sammons said.

To pollinate a crop, a beekeeper has to drive a hive to whatever crop needs to be pollinated, he said.

“All of this has to be done really early – you need to get there by 6 a.m.,” Sammons said. “The reason you need to get the bees there so early is because they are not very active in the morning.”

Bees are used to pollinate different kinds of crops such as apples, squash, cucumber and many others, he said.

“They can greatly increase a farmer’s crop,” he said.

With all the benefits of beekeeping, it is kind of funny that some people are scared of them, he said.

“They only sting when you trap them or try to brush them off,” Sammons said.

He started beekeeping around 10 years ago, and he did not get stung until two summers ago. He said it was because he got lazy.

“I would pull some of the supers without a bee suit on,” Sammons said. “Usually if they land on me, I just shake them off.”

Sammons would like to have a program on campus to educate people about beekeeping.

“I’d like to educate the students and public on how honeybees work and the benefits they produce for agriculture,” he said.

He would like to have Dan Kaminski, president of the Portage County Beekeepers Association, come to campus with some of his friends.

A good way to show people about bees is an observation beehive.

“An observation beehive has Plexiglas so that you can see the bees,” Sammons said.

He has spoken to the resident assistants in Koonce Hall about his beekeeping, and he has brought honey from Kentucky for them to try.

“He loves to be around nature, and it’s a good way for him to be by himself,” said Brice Kertoy, senior music education major and Koonce Hall resident assistant. “His honey is very good.”

Contact features correspondent Ted Hamilton at [email protected]