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July 13, 2020

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For Tom Kier beekeeping is a great prescription for retirement!

Hear his bee talk Wednesday afternoon at the Ada Public Library

By Barb Lockhard
When Tom Kier retired in 2016, he had a few things on his bucket list.  The former associate dean of ONU’s College of Pharmacy wanted to see the Masters Golf Tournament (which he did this year) and also pursue an interest in beekeeping.

“Bees are fascinating creatures, said Kier, but then I’ve always been sort of a science geek.” 

Now starting his third summer tending honey bees, he will share his knowledge with aspiring beekeepers in a presentation set for Wednesday, April 17, 3:30 p.m. at the Ada Public Library.  It’s Beekeeping 101 and he’ll bring some equipment so the audience will get a hands-on experience. 

Kier admits he was a little intimidated starting his first hive.  “Bees sting and it does hurt,” he laughed, but was quick to add that honey bees aren’t particularly aggressive, unlike hornets and wasps.  Bees have barbed stingers and only sting once.  Hornets can sting several times.  In more than two years of beekeeping, Kier estimates he’s been stung about five times, and it was usually because he was doing “something stupid.” 

“Once, I was in a hurry and dropped a frame of bees,” he recalled.  “All of a sudden there were thousands of bees in the air around me.  You have to stay calm and move slowly.  They’ll leave you alone if you do what you’re supposed to.”

Getting Started
You don’t need a lot of land to have bees and Kier estimates that a $500 investment is about what it  takes to start an apiary (a place for bees).  He currently has two hives on his property just north of Ada, but has had as many as five. When a hive becomes too large, the old queen will leave, taking part of the hive with her to find a new home.  This is what’s known as a “swarm” and Kier lost some bees that way.  Now he’s learning how to split the hives so the bees stick around.

“Swarms may show up in your yard,” he added.  “Don’t panic or start spraying them.  If you can find a local beekeeper, they’ll come and get them.  If not, the bees don’t stay long.”  Swarms are usually looking for a permanent home, which could be a hollow tree, a barn or other type of building. 

Kier credits his work with the Hardin County Chapter of Pheasants Forever for his interest in bees.  Through the group, he became involved with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative.  Bees are an essential part of food production and, unfortunately, face several threats, such as pesticides, viruses, and mites.  He has registered his hives with a field watch group that allows farmers to know where bees are so they can control spraying. 

“Farmers know the value of bees,” said Kier.  “Bees don’t pollinate corn, but I’ve read that soybean crops can increase by 10 to 20 percent with bees in the area.” He encourages everyone to plant bee-friendly flowers and watch their own use of pesticides.

Typical of a college professor, Kier is always working to expand his knowledge.  He belongs to a beekeeping group in Pandora; attends regular meetings of a club in Urbana and is a member of the Ohio State Beekeeping Association.  As a pharmacist, he’s been asked if eating “local” honey can help alleviate allergies.

“There could be something to it,” he said.  “I do think that honey is a healthy food.  My wife and I are using it more as a sweetener and in baking.”

When asked if his wife, Karen, also shares his hobby, Kier laughed.

“She’s actually allergic to bees.  I’m out there all by myself.”