Alabama Beekeepers

By: Deanna Bettineschi Email
By: Deanna Bettineschi Email

Gerry Whitaker has been keeping bees for the past nineteen years.
Originally he started it as a hobby for his family, but it soon grew into a commercial business.
And in these years he's learned there are many misconceptions about these tiny flying gardeners.

"A lot of people think that honey is the most important product. In reality we rely on bees for pollination." Gerry Whitaker said.

This means without bees, many of the fruits and vegetables we eat, wouldn't be here.

"If we do not have bees and we don’t have healthy bees, a lot of this will cease. Our food source will change. It will go down to nothing." Dothan Nurseries Plant caretaker Renee Wirth said,

1/3 of the food that ends up on your table is pollinated by these bees.

"That includes the meat on your table because the oats and the other things that the beef eat also need that pollination." Whitaker said.

In fact, about five years ago people across the U.S. were worried this would happen.

It's called 'colony collapse disorder'. It's where bees die off very quickly.

"Colony collapse disorder is still a mystery. The government is looking into that, they have issued grants to study that. I think the most recent is a bacteria, it’s a theory developed by a doctor in Nebraska."

Whitaker says that's when Alabama beekeeping was at its lowest, but fortunately the disorder never reached the state.

"There would be a huge effect on us. Obviously the things we have on our table would diminish. A lot of the flowers that we enjoy would not be there or wouldn't be as full and fragrant." Whitaker said.

Whitaker says now, the bee keeping business is on the upswing.
"Alabama was the first state to sell packaged bees and also the first state to sell queen bees."

Whitaker says the beekeeping business is very rewarding.

"My favorite part is learning about the society itself. They are incredibly unique and I enjoy passing that on and teaching others."

And this business keeps Whitaker as busy as a bee.

Bees also produce honey that can help many bodily ailments.
The honey is known to help allergy sufferers, and the venom in the female bee’s sting can help arthritis pain.

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