Robert Noles/Opelika Observer
Opelika girl, grandfather bond over beekeeping
By Morgan Bryce
Eleven-year-old Clara Duncan may be Opelika’s youngest apiarist.
Clara and her grandfather, Bill New, who works part time for Frederick-Dean Funeral Home, started beekeeping last year after years of noticing a declining bee population in his yard.
“I really like gardening, and when I’d be outside over the last four years, I couldn’t find a bee on this property. I knew my garden and fruit trees needed some bees to do better,” New said. “Then I decided to try beekeeping, to increase the amount of bees around here so that my plants could get better pollination.”
New bought his first hive and group of bees last year, and after all the costs involved with buying a pre-made hive, decided to learn how to construct his own, giving him two hives to manage by himself.
Clara and her sister Georgia, the daughters of Trinity Presbyterian minister Chris Duncan, come visit New and his wife Lura every weekend, and New said that he and Clara have had the chance to collaborate on other ventures together.
“She’s always been interested in what Pop’s doing and follows me around. She got me into the chicken business last year,” New said laughingly. “Right after I began to start beekeeping, she took up an interest in bees, and wanted to learn about beekeeping. I told her I didn’t know much and we’d have to learn together, but she was all for it.”
Much like her grandad, Clara had no experience with bees, but she said the chance to try out a new hobby like beekeeping was appealing.
“It’s cool to do something that no one else does and fun to be around animals that can hurt you because you know they can’t hurt you with the suit on,” Clara said.
At the time she started beekeeping, Clara was a fifth grader at Trinity Christian School. She said most of her friends were surprised when they heard about her new hobby.
“Most of my friends are scared by bees, and they just didn’t understand why I wanted to do it,” Clara said.
Nearly a year later, she and ‘Pop’ are preparing for their second year of beekeeping, with expectations of harvesting honey from their hives for the first time in October.
They have kept busy during the spring and summer months, monitoring the safety of the hive and observing the egg-laying activity of their hive’s queen bees. Since starting, New has been reading articles and watching videos about beekeeping, as well as getting advice from a family member who is a passionate beekeeper. But he admits that he still has much to learn.
“We’ve both learned a lot, but still got a ways to go. This year, we’re splitting up our hives and we’re going to do a little research, and test out our ideas on each one, and see how they fare,” New said. “Then, I’ll purchase a third hive later and we’ll run that based off of how our theories with our own turned out. We’re excited to see how all of this is going to go.”
Their planned harvest date for honey is late October, and New noted that because of the plant life in his area, he expects the honey to be “light in color, and really sweet.” Both said they are excited to see how things turn out this fall, and hope to be able to produce enough honey to be able to distribute to both family and neighbors. But for Clara, the chance to spend time with her grandad and be outside is the best part about beekeeping.
“It’s fun to do stuff with your grandparents, because now everyone’s on their electronics and stuff, not spending time with people,” Clara said. “I enjoy being out there with him and being outside. That’s what I like most about beekeeping.”