Teri Easton expects a lot of buzz about her new venture.
The former athletic department administrative assistant at Champaign’s St.Thomas More needed a hobby to help her into retirement.
The White Heath resident found a sweet one.
Easton is becoming a beekeeper.
She had no background in the endeavor.
“I’ve learned enough,” Easton said, “that I’m interested in keeping a beehive and nurturing them.”
Her fascination started quite by accident. Returning to the family’s rural home one-night last fall, Easton noticed a huge oak tree limb had fallen and “things were crawling on it.”
She investigated and discovered it was a swarm of bees.
With the help of a person who handles swarm calls, the bees were coaxed into a hive box.
That story didn’t have a happy ending.
“They were attacked by other bees, and left,” Easton said.
Not discouraged, she was receptive in April when a nuisance swarm was captured from a southwest Champaign home and needed to be relocated on
The family’s 5-acre property — surrounded by an additional 90 acres of woods — was an ideal location.
She took in one swarm and two hive boxes. Easton has since added two more boxes for that swarm and added a second swarm with four additional hive
boxes several feet away.
She estimates that there are at least 10,000 bees in each swarm. They have the ability to come and go as they please.
Long-term, she expects to collect honey, but that is not yet a priority.
“It’s more important to keep the honey in the hive so they can feed off of it if there’s not much pollen,” Easton said.
Once a week, she opens the hives to check on the bees, she said, to “make sure the queen is laying eggs and that they are hatching and surviving.”
She has noticed the bees are most active between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“When they come out of the hive, they go straight up over the trees to find food,” Easton said. “It would be nice to think they are going to the ditches, waterways and fields.
“I was happy to see a neighbor planted a patch of sunflowers.”
She is more aware of her surroundings and takes note of activities which
others may overlook.
“I feel disappointed when I see ditches mowed,” Easton said. “We’re so focused on eradicating weeds, we forget that bees need those as a source of food.”
Though Easton has the acreage to plant pollinator flowers, carrying out the project is proving to be a challenge.
“I’ve planted lavender and I’m trying to see what will grow,” she said, “but we’ve had a problem with deer eating the flowers.”
The timing of starting hives — she hopes to have 10 by next summer — was perfect.
“I have four kids and when I was working full-time, this wasn’t something I could devote time to,” Easton said. “Now that I’m retired and the children are all independent, the bees fell into my lap.
“I’m saving them and helping the environment. We need bees to pollinate crops and gardens.”
Easton hopes to start collecting honey next spring “for my household and eventually to sell, if I can harvest enough.”
When she is working around the bees, she wears jeans and boots, a jacket and a mesh covering for her face.
“I like to have my upper body covered,” Easton said.
She also carries a smoker with her, which she said, “calms them down and hides your smells so they’re not alarmed.”
During her learning process, Easton has spent time watching YouTube. “It has great videos for beginners,” she said.
She is currently researching what needs to be done to help the bees make it through the winter.“You have to be careful you don’t get moisture inside the hive,” she said.
“You have to be careful you don’t get moisture inside the hive,” she said.
“That will kill them.
“By the end of August, I will plan out how to get them through the winter.”
She will supply the bees “sugar water through a feeder to make sure they have a food supply,” she said.
Easton will also reduce the size of the entrance for the bees, which currently is about a half-inch wide and 10 inches long. The opening will be closer to one inch in length by winter.
Depending on the weather, Easton tries to devote time on Wednesdays to checking the bees, but she attempts to maintain a consistent presence otherwise.
“I try to be around them every day so they are used to me being around,” Easton said. “Sometimes I’m weeding. Sometimes I just stand and watch them.”
She has discovered some of the tricks to avoiding an attack.
“Slow movements, no loud sounds,” Easton said.
She’s not fearful of being stung.
“Bees don’t go out seeking to sting people,” she said. “They go out seeking food. If you’re in their path, it’s possible you’d get stung, but the chances are very, very small.”
After 15 years in an office at St. Thomas More, Easton was looking forward to something different.
“I wanted to work at something where I was in control,” she said, “and make a little money for my effort.
“It may turn out that beekeeping is what my job is, but the bees will be the ones to determine that.”
She has been bitten twice — both times she said it was due to her error — but won’t back off on her efforts.
“I’m willing to put up with the stings in order to save them,” Easton said. “I hope they appreciate it.”
Fred Kroner, who covered sports for the News Gazette until his retirement in 2016, is now the editor of the Mahomet Citizen. Fred, who grew up in Mahomet, enjoys spending time with his wife, who also recently opened Lucky Moon Pies and More.
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