When people think of beekeepers, they might think of people who own and take care of bees for the production of honey. However, for Margie Robertson, a respected member of the Shelby County Beekeeper Association, beekeeping is a passion that opens doors to many opportunities outside of honey.
Robertson, a horticulturist and certified landscaper, is a master beekeeper and master gardener. She first became interested in bees when people came to her at the garden center where she worked and asked why their squash plants were not flourishing like they should be. The solution? The plants needed pollinators, and she knew that bees are some of the best ones around. Since pollinators are essential for growing healthy plants, Robertson wanted to learn more about bees so she could keep her plants thriving. She began learning about beekeeping in Jefferson County and became so intrigued with honeybees that she decided to take her new passion further.
Through hard work and dedication, Robertson became the first female master beekeeper in Alabama to also be certified by the state of Alabama. The process is no cake walk; becoming a certified master beekeeper involves studying, testing, and meeting countless qualifications. Not only is earning certification mentally taxing, but it also involves lots of hard physical work. Beekeeping is a labor-intensive hobby that requires strength and commitment, but provides many benefits and is very fulfilling.
While an obvious benefit of beekeeping is the honey, Robertson’s passion for bees reaches far beyond that. She has two daughters in the military, and she cares deeply about giving back to veterans. For this reason, she plans to offer free beekeeping classes to veterans. She sees this as an opportunity to give back to those who fight for our country, and she believes that all beekeepers should care about veterans and find ways to help them.
Robertson is also passionate about the ways that we, as humans, can learn from bees. She says that by learning more about bees, we can learn more about ourselves and others. “Bees are social insects,” she says. “They sacrifice themselves for the queen.” She adds that hundreds of worker bees are lost per day because they protect the queen bee at all costs. The queen lays between 15,000 and 25,000 eggs per day, and it is the workers’ job to make sure the queen is safe while she is laying the eggs. Robertson says that if people can learn about how the workers sacrifice themselves for the good of the queen, we can also learn about the value of sacrificing our own self-interests for the good of those we love.
As pollinators, bees are vital to a healthy environment. Robertson quotes Einstein, saying, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Since bees play such a valuable role in nature, Robertson hopes to educate more young people about them. She also hopes to mentor other beekeepers and teach them why bees are so important. Not only do bees pollinate plants, but they also produce venom, wax, and propolis, a material with antibacterial properties. By teaching people about all the good things that come from bees, Robertson hopes to increase appreciation for what she is so passionate about.
While she is extremely dedicated to beekeeping, she stresses that for her, it is a hobby, not a business. She is not in it just for the honey, because there are so many other ways that people can benefit by learning about and keeping bees. Robertson is fascinated with honeybees, and that fascination led to her being certified as a master beekeeper and using her passion to help veterans and increase awareness of bee benefits. She maintains that beekeeping is a constant learning process, and that she learns more and more every day about the roles bees play in the world and in our own lives. By paying more attention to bees, Robertson hopes to continue doing what she does best as a beekeeper and showing others why her passion is so educational and fulfilling.
By: Molly Mitchell
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.