Are you interested in beekeeping but have no idea where to begin? Irma and Johnny Rayborn have some advice on how to get started. Several years ago, one of Irma’s friends mentioned that she was getting into the honey business. Irma thought her friend’s plan was very interesting and tucked the idea of beekeeping into the back of her mind.

After retirement, the Rayborns left Chicago and acquired several acres of land in Childersburg, Alabama. There, they decided to do some small-scale farming. After the move, Irma thought about beekeeping more and more. Soon she decided it was the perfect time to begin their bee adventure.

The Rayborns began researching beekeeping and came across the Shelby County Beekeeping Association. They say that being a part of this group has been the biggest help to them and their bees. The SCBA paired them with veteran beekeeper and former SCBA president Robert Shoemaker as their mentor, provided introductory classes, and helped encourage them as they began the process.

The Rayborns have now been beekeeping since early spring 2016 and have 5 hives. Except for the frames, Johnny builds all the equipment for their hives. Since the Rayborns are in their first year of beekeeping, they have not collected any of their honey yet but are very eager to do so. When the honey is ready to be gathered, they hope to collect fifty to sixty pounds per hive. Honey is the drive for the Rayborn’s beekeeping. They use honey in their tea and cooking, and they have friends with allergies who are expectantly awaiting their share of the Rayborn’s harvest.

Though they began beekeeping for the purpose of getting fresh honey, the Rayborns have found several other reasons for continuing to keep bees. First, they find it very therapeutic. It is more than just a hobby; it’s very refreshing for them. Also, beekeeping helps the environment, so it is the primary way the Rayborns express good stewardship of the earth. Lastly, Johnny and Irma say they are able to see God in the bees. Irma says that, “Bees are an example of God doing everything in decency and in order.” In conclusion, should one be interested in beginning beekeeping, the Rayborns have a little bit of advice: Find and join a beekeeping association in your area. Once in your association, you need to ask questions. It is crucial to have as much foreknowledge as possible before you begin beekeeping. Do research as well, either in books or videos online. Finally, seek out a mentor who can help guide you along in your bee journey.   

By: Mary Beth Sanders

Photograph by Jake Marvin

This summer, a select group of students at Evangel Classical Christian School in Alabaster, AL was proud to partner with the Shelby County Beekeeper Association for the pilot project of their Communication Corps. The Communication Corps seeks to give talented young writers and photographers at ECCS the opportunity to learn and practice producing journalistic pieces. The SCBA was gracious to extend an invitation to these young students to interview and profile several prominent beekeepers—from seasoned veterans to newcomers in the field. Led by ECCS teacher and writer in residence Karin Ballstadt, the students were excited to not only learn more about journalism, but learn about beekeeping—a profession and hobby not many of them had ever considered before. The ECCS Communication Corps would like to extend thanks to the SCBA and its president Brandon Blankenship for welcoming them in for a look behind the scenes.