The Keeper: A Becoming Tale
Interview with Tim Trescott, a North Carolina beekeeper.
How and when did you first get into the business?
I have been in the bee business all my life. I am a third generation.
What makes you different than, say, the big wax companies?
We work directly with only US Beekeepers, and US only. This is a bit more labor intensive as we ourselves are doing the collection and not the beekeepers, but the quality of wax is generally higher this way. Domestic beeswax is also collected and processed different than, say, African beeswax.
How closely do you work with the beekeepers, and others who work with the hives (those who collect the honey, pollen, etc).
Since we work domestically, we are able to directly with the beekeepers, and we maintain relationships with beekeepers across the country. Since the wax can only be extracted by also extracting the honey, it’s sort of an all hands on deck operation.
What kind of gear do you use when collecting?
I keep it simple and usually just wear a khaki shirt with jeans and then a bee veil. A classic beekeeper-uniform, one could say.
What type of wax are you looking for when you go into the hives? (Are certain types of waxes better than others)
As mentioned, the wax only comes from extracting the honey, since the wax is what seals the honey in the hive. Capping wax is the best type, though- it’s the super-finewax seal on the top, as opposed the the wax within the comb. The capping wax is the most pure, and- not surprisingly, the hardest and most expensive to obtain.
How far do you travel? Are there certain times of the year that are better than others?
We travel as far as the Dakotas, summertime is usually the best time to travel- for the obvious reason of travelling logistics, and also the fact that bees are generally more active during this time of year..
Have you find that different regions yield different types of wax? (Quality, quantity, color, etc)
Yes, I find that the wax is based on the floral source it comes from. Some southern waxes work better for going to an ivory color. The smell also depends on the floral source as well. The quality, color, and scent is affected with each stage of collection. African beeswax, for example, is often collected by blowing black smoke into the hives, which in turn changes the color and scent of the wax from that point forward.
What affect does collecting wax have on the bees? Is there a limit to how much you take or are allowed to take per collection period?
Collecting wax does not affect the bees- it’s kind of like pruning a plant. Of course you don’t want to prune the entire bush, but cutting it back a bit won’t harm the plant in the slightest and can actually be beneficial for its productivity as an organism.. Each hive of bees only produces about 1 to 2 lbs of wax per year. The wax is depending on the amount of honey that is produced.
Do you have any bees of your own?
We are hobbyists at this time, running about 20 hives of bees. in the past we used to run as many as 800.
What's the strangest thing you've heard people use beeswax for?
I would have to say the strangest thing people have used beeswax for is either as gum or hair removal.
Have you seen the industry change in any way since you began- and if so, how?
No, It is a fairly standard business. The industry has experienced more notoriety, though, in the past few years thanks to the push for environmental awareness and bee scarcity.
What's you're favorite part about the job? Least favorite (if any)?
The favorite part of the job is taking crude wax and getting it back into a nice yellow beeswax for candle making.
If someone were interested in becoming a part of the industry, (beekeeper or collector) what advice would you give them?
My advice to someone interested in the industry is that it not for the weak of heart. It is a hard job, literally, working with the bees, but it so enjoyable. It’s a lot of learning by doing.
Words: Caroline NoonanContinue reading