When some people hear a buzzing sound, their first reaction may be to flail their arms around to keep the flying insect away. That buzzing can mean that a bee is nearby, and someone might get stung.
However, one group is trying to change that feeling and is encouraging people to feel more comfortable around bees.
“There’s definitely a fear factor,” said Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, who has been raising bees for the past several years.
Wiggins started with two hives in May 2010 and now has about 14. She began beekeeping because she wanted to produce honey as well as pollinate her garden.
Fellow beekeeper and club manager David Draker has about 20 beehives. He started with one about five years ago.
The two Rolla residents are members of the Rolla Bee Club, an association that started in 2014.
Wiggins said as she became interested in bees, she started teaching beginners’ beekeeping classes. She learned that Draker also was a beekeeper as was Cheryl Hinchman, of Dixon.
As more beekeeping classes were held, it became obvious that students wanted more than just classes. So Wiggins, Draker and Hinchman decided to form a network of area beekeepers and eventually initiated the club.
The Rolla Bee Club now meets the fourth Sunday of each month from January through November from 2-5 p.m. at Brownwood Estates Clubhouse, 1341 California Drive, Rolla. There is no meeting held in December. There are no club dues, but attendees are welcome to make donations for upkeep. “We are a pay-as-we-go club,” Wiggins said.
During the second half of the club meeting, visitors are invited to tour Draker’s apiary (a place where beehives are kept).
The hobby of beekeeping has grown over the years, and Draker said information about club meetings is now sent to over 150 people.
The students who have attended Rolla Bee Club meetings in the past have come from as far away as St. Louis, Springfield, Auxvasse and Houston, Missouri.
In fact, the growth of beekeeping is evident as now many local stores like MFA and the Family Center carry beekeeping supplies. Before that, many beekeepers had to use mail order for shipments from the St. Louis or Springfield areas.
Draker said as he was getting ready to retire, he heard about beekeeping and the “plight of bees,” so he decided to start a hive.
Both Draker and Wiggins emphasized that beginner beekeepers need to read about beekeeping before starting. Go to your local library and find books about beekeeping.
“We both read before we bought our first hives,” Draker said,” and we continually read.” There is a constant learning process, they said.
Wiggins also suggested that those starting out should attend local bee clubs, visit neighbors who have bees and ask experienced beekeepers for help.
The Missouri State Beekeepers Association also holds an annual fall conference at the Lake of the Ozarks. This year’s conference is set for Oct. 14-15, at the Lodge of the Four Seasons at Lake of the Ozarks. The state association also will hold a spring learning session March 1, 2017, at Stoney Creek Conference Center in Columbia.
At the association conferences and learning sessions, leading researchers discuss what’s affecting bees and other topics. However, it’s often a beginners’ class at these conferences that are heavily attended.
During the local beekeeping classes and meetings, Draker said attendees are exposed to different methods and views from himself, Wiggins, Hinchman and fellow beekeeper and club manager Johnny Lozano.
Wiggins said she and her fellow beekeepers try to operate the classes in a way that they would’ve liked to have had when they started beekeeping.
The classes are kept to about 20 people to allow an open forum for people to discuss several topics and answers can be tailored to the audience.
“We’ve trained over 500 people in the classes,” Wiggins said.
The classes and tours of Draker’s apiary allow people to touch things and ask questions. While books are great tools, Wiggins noted that those bees are not moving in those pictures, but they are in the apiaries.
“No two years are the same,” Wiggins said when it comes to beekeeping.
In fact, Draker said his bees didn’t survive the first winter, but that didn’t discourage him from continuing to grow hives.
Draker said beekeeping involves a substantial investment of time, money and interest.
For more information about the Rolla Bee Club, visit http://www.rollabeeclub.com/ or call (573) 578-0561 and email rollabees at gmail.com
Area beekeeping clubs
• Rolla Bee Club: Meets the fourth Sunday of the month from January through November (no meeting in December) from 2-5 p.m. at Brownwood Estates Clubhouse, 1341 California Drive, Rolla. No dues. Contact David Draper at 573-578-0561 or rollabees@gmail.com.
•  Mid-Missouri Beekeepers Association (St. James): Meets the third Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. at the Old Train Depot in downtown St. James. Dues are $15, including the state association membership. Meets March through November with a December "pay-your-own" dinner. Contact Don Moore at 573-265-8706 or dlmoore2@centurytel.net.
• Gasconade Region Beekeepers Club (Owensville): Meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at First State Community Bank, 308 W. Lincoln Ave., Owensville. Contact Chris Bilbrey at 573-692-0698 or twaace01@fidnet.com.
• Mark Twain Beekeepers (Dent County): Meets the third Monday of each month from 6-8 p.m. at various locations. No dues. Contact Gregg Tivnan at 573-689-2254 greggtivnan@yahoo.com or Terry Phelps at 573-729-3333.