The roar of thousands of bees fills the air at one of Chris Gibbons’ bee yards in Rocheport.
“Sometimes it’s hard to hear over the sound of the bees,” said Gibbons, former president of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association. The yard contains more than a dozen hives, each with at least 20,000 bees at this time of year.
Gibbons methodically makes his way through the stacked boxes, or Langstroth hives, where the bees make their combs. Gibbons wears a suit that only partially protects him once sweat mattes the suit to his skin, but he is unafraid of the stings he endures on a daily basis. He has largely developed an immunity to them, he said.
“The work’s got to get done,” Gibbons said. “It makes no sense to worry about.”
The work involves placing a fume board whose smell chases the bees to lower boxes. He then takes the top box off and blows out the remaining bees with a leaf blower, to ensure the queen has left.
Some of the boxes, or “honey supers,” that he pulls off contain frames laden with honey. Other boxes are nearly barren, which Gibbons attributes to the summer drought. After he pulls off the top boxes, only the bottom boxes, or “brood supers,” remain to give the bees a space to hibernate for the winter.
The honey supers will eventually be moved into the extracting room back at Gibbons Bee Farm, where the honey, wax, propolis and pollen are removed and separated from the frames.
“Everything we take off the bees is sold,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons Bee Farm is a family-run business that was started by Chris Gibbons’ mother, Sharon Gibbons, in 1980.
Bored with his job as a line supervisor in a factory, Chris Gibbons jumped at the opportunity to join the business eight years ago.
“Not all children can work with their parents,” Sharon Gibbons said. “He’s got a give-and-take personality that allows us to work together well.”
Now, the business also includes Chris Gibbons’ wife.
Their honey is all locally produced — up to 80,000 pounds a year. Chris Gibbons tries to keep his farming as natural as possible, filtering but not pasteurizing his honey, and avoiding chemicals when possible.
“I wouldn’t want to give people something I wouldn’t eat myself,” he said.
As an avid honey user who often substitutes it for other sweeteners, Chris Gibbons believes it is a healthier alternative. Honey naturally contains antioxidants.
“I love it,” he said of the business. “It’s something different every day.”