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Minding his own beeswax: Elizabethtown apiarist Scudder leads busy life

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By Robert Villanueva

Going to college to pursue a new career path at age 36, maintaining a full-time job as an automotive technician and maintaining his hobby as an apiarist keep Josh Scudder as busy as a bee.

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“This would be year four,” Scudder said of his beekeeping hobby. “So I guess I’m a bit green by beekeeping standards.”

Clad in a beekeeper’s mask, shirt and gloves, Scudder carried his smoker to two hives in an open field on his property to do an inspection. The smoker is a metal can in which kindling is burned to produce the smoke that is supposed to calm the bees.

One by one, Scudder raised frames from the hives, each of which holds about 30,000 bees. Bees hovered around the area, drifting to and fro, their flight as languid as dripping honey. Scudder checked the brood, or bee larvae, and felt confident it was good.

The Elizabethtown man keeps the hives, one with Italian bees and one with Russian bees, on his 24 acres. When Scudder was a child, it was a 24-acre farm on which his father, Jim, kept bees, too.

After Jim was stung on the neck, resulting in a severe reaction, he eventually stopped keeping bees. As Scudder took up the hobby, his father has revived his interest, too, keeping two hives himself.

“I think he’s doing a good job,” Jim said of his son.

Beekeeping isn’t the only area in which Jim found reasons to compliment his son. Jim noted his son’s energetic spirit in taking on a new career path and described his son as “determined” to do well.

To that end, Jim said, his son got all As during his first semester at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.

“I’m real proud of him,” Jim said.

Scudder began his second semester last week at ECTC, taking pre-engineering classes. He plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

“I’m tired of fixing the vehicles; I might start building them,” he said.

In the berm house he built with his father over the course of three years, Scudder displays books related to beekeeping, including a reprint of what he called the decisive book on the subject: “The Hive and the Honey Bee.”

“I actually started out with ‘Beekeeping for Dummies,’” Scudder said.

As for his motivation for being a beekeeper, Scudder recalled memories of being a child when his father kept bees. He found the hobby to be interesting, he said.

“I’m fascinated with their society,” Scudder said. “They’re so highly structured.”

The hobby required Scudder to do research. He found out about bee hierarchy, what makes a strong hive and even bee behavior.

“Sometimes I think they have bad days just like people do,” Scudder said.

For example, he said, it was perhaps when his bees were having one of those bad days he sustained 16 stings.

“They say they can smell fear, and I think that’s true,” he said.

Most of what he does as an apiarist is trial and error, Scudder said, because those involved in the hobby invariably do things differently. Still, the hobby produces a sweet benefit.

In the fall Scudder harvests 75-80 pounds of honey per hive. He sometimes hosts a harvest party of sorts, enjoying the honey on food, such as biscuits, with guests.

Eventually he hopes to run about four hives and upgrade to a hygienic strain. A hygienic strain is one that keeps the hive cleared of debris or harmful material, thereby reducing the chance for diseases that can wipe out the colony.

“Bees get sick much easier than you think,” Scudder said.

Along with other ailments, including those caused by pesticides and the use of genetically modified organisms in crops, bees face various enemies. Parasites, such as tracheal mites, and hive-decimating intruders, such as wax moths, present problems for bees, Scudder said.

Despite the challenges of his hobby and his life, Scudder recognizes he has much to be thankful for.

“I live well,” he said. “I love it out here.”

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

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