Hero of the hives: Arp beekeeper passionate about hobby

Hero of the hives: Arp beekeeper passionate about hobby

At first, it’s just a faint rumble, and you strain to discern the source of the low-pitched hum.

But as you walk closer to some of the innocuous looking wooden boxes in the side yard of Dick Counts’ home in Arp, the hum becomes a buzz and you can see the honeybees darting in and out of the boxes, which house their hives.

More than a million honeybees call the 38 hives in Counts’ yard home.

Counts became interested in bees more than 40 years ago and quickly affirms that “40 years later they’re still fascinating and I’m still learning.”

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Counts became interested in bees more than 40 years ago and quickly affirms that “40 years later they’re still fascinating and I’m still learning.”

He procured his first hive while working at Smith Tank & Equipment as a purchasing agent. The facility, near Camp Ford in Smith County, was near a site where area residents would illegally dump their trash and castoffs, including a large refrigerator that Counts quickly discovered housed a hive of bees.

Despite not having any experience with bees, Counts took the hive home and “an old guy came out and showed me how to put in the hives and screens,” he said.

“It was fascinating to learn how to handle them first and then set up their homes,” he said.

Counts works exclusively with honeybees, which are not native to the United States.

“Most bees in East Texas are an Italian strain, brought to the States in the 1850s,” he said, sharing his decades of accumulated bee knowledge. “In 1622, German black bees came over on a boat. They’re mean as can be, but they were successful in getting them started here.”

Some of the bees Counts purchased; others he has kept going through hives he acquires.

“I can claim them, but I don’t own a single one,” he quipped. “They’re welcome to leave at any time.”

But the bees stay, enjoying life cycle after life cycle under the East Texas sun.

The bees are most active – and most likely to reproduce – in the warm months, according to Counts.

“One single egg can produce any kind of bee, a worker bee or female, a queen, or a drone (male),” he said. “It has to do with what they are fed, not what they start out as.”

A queen is fed a special diet for eight to nine days, and when she is ready to fly out, she mates with 20 to 25 males, who then die, and repopulates the hive.

In the spring, a queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, Counts said. By the time a hive “re-queens,” about every four years (although Counts likes to make this happen every two years in his hives), she’s laid about 800,000 eggs.

http://www.adoptahive.co

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