Hayes — with the assistance of his wife, Wendy, and son, Walker — operates Steve’s Bee Farm.
He says he takes care of the hives and Wendy does the labeling, jarring, helping with honey extraction and marketing.
Interest in the busy buzzers was not important when a younger Steve was invited to help his grandfather, Thomas Hayes, a beekeeper.
“He had a small 5-acre garden that he loved to work,” Steve admits. “He also knew successful plants need bees for pollination. He always talked about how fascinating they were but failed to convince me when I was a child.”
Five years ago that attitude changed. Steve read about the decline in bee populations and decided to follow the steps of his grandfather and become a beekeeper.
After a year of researching and learning about the hobby, he bought hives. He was hooked!
Today he has eight or nine honey and 15 nucleus hives for building numbers, selling queens and starting bee packages.
Hayes has not sold many queens since he continues to build numbers.
“If I sold my queens, I would lower my production,” he notes.
He is also acquainted with several people that are queen breeders.
Looking back, Steve wishes he had sought a mentor instead of spending the first two years “making mistakes, getting stung and bumbling around.”
He only suits up to prevent stings if he is extracting honey, which is often during warm weather.
“This is the time when there are different flows,” he says. “The first occurs when privet hedges bloom in the spring. When these flowers begin to fade, I know the bees have a good reserve and extract the honey.”
During a nectar flow, bees can fill a medium size super in a week. This usually yields nine quarts of honey.
The bees at Steve’s farm annually produce about 20 gallons.
As a beekeeper, he emphasizes that time management is very important and always leaves enough food (honey) to keep the population healthy.
Steve plans to continue his hobby, which he believes can provide something extra during retirement. He laughs as he explains that event is in the distant future.
Meanwhile, he and Wendy plan to continue with their project of growing the bee population, gathering honey and making natural lip balms and candles from the wax.
“Honey is a great gift for family and friends during Christmas or other special occasions,” Steve says. “I believe a hobby should support itself and not take you away from those you love.”