• Beekeeper John

    About the writer: John Kirk is an avid gamer, a writer, a student, and apparently likes writing in third person.

    I’m 22 summers old and a student at Rowan University, studying journalism. I’m from “South Jersey” for those who understand, New Jersey to those that don’t....Read more on the About Page....

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Interview with Tim Schuler, NJ State Apiary Inspector

Backyard Buzz Exclusive Interview: New Jersey State Apiary inspector Tim Schuler

Bees in a Hole

Inside of one of Tim Schuler's hives.

As state apiary inspector, Tim Schuler’s job is to aid New Jersey’s beekeeping industry by inspecting hives for signs of disease or parasites, ensure that colonies being brought into New Jersey from other states for pollination work on farms do not bring disease or parasites into the state, and works with the New Jersey education systems to help encourage more interest and knowledge in the realm of honeybees. A 23-year veteran of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture Schuler was named state inspector in the summer of 2007, and has been working hard on the job ever since.

While the interview was taking place Tim and myself were in the process of getting his hives ready before he left the area for a vacation. Two really interesting parts of the interview was when we talked about the future of CCD and the number of commercial beekeepers versus the growing number of hobbyist beekeepers in NJ.

Tractors

Tractors ready to be used for the process of making the food we enjoy everyday.

Interview:

Backyard Buzz: Have you, in your experience, noticed a shift from commercial beekeeping in NJ to a growing number of hobbyist, or is it the total opposite where there happens to be a decline in the hobbyist section of beekeeping?

Tim Schuler: Well, there are more colony’s in New Jersey that are managed by commercial beekeepers, but there has been a huge increase of backyard beekeepers, or hobbyist beekeepers if you will, within the last 4 years. It all started back in 2006 with the colony collapse disorder and all the hype and the media about honeybee colonies dying off. With CCD in 2006 there was a huge amount of people who wanted to do something for the environment and to help out the plighted honeybee. It’s not expensive to do it, and they can do it in their own backyard.

Palleted Hives 2

The Hives before we loaded them on the flatbed truck

BB: What bit of advice, that you think is indispensable, would you give to backyard beekeepers, or those who are on the fence about becoming a beekeeper?

TS: I highly recommend that people thinking about becoming a beekeeper to take a beginner’s beekeepers course, and that’s not just because I teach one. I find people who just can’t even communicate with me because they don’t even know the terminology. And it’s very hard for me being in the position of state apiarist to help them if they don’t even know what I’m talking about. An introductory or a beginner beekeeper course gives them the tools, they’ll understand the lingo, they’ll know how to open a hive, what a smoker is, and you know that isn’t the end of their education, that is only the beginning. They’ve got to go even further than that in order to master the craft.

BB: What do you think is the future of CCD and do you think that we as beekeepers will ever find the root to the problem?

TS: There are a lot of researchers looking for the problem whether they find it or not, well I don’t know. By definition a disorder isn’t necessarily caused by just one thing, it’s a multitude. So, I’ve heard of some researchers and writers call it the perfect storm in that year [2006] and in those operations. Where everything that could have went wrong, went wrong at the same time. I don’t know if they could even duplicate all the causes the same way. The bottom line is that it has been good for beekeeping as a whole because it has got a lot of people interested in beekeeping and brought a lot of research dollars into beekeeping.

Higher Pallets

This was the method we used to move all 5 pallets we collected that evening.

Some of the main cause’s of CCD are lack of forage, you see a lawn like that? [Schuler points at a perfect looking lawn across the street] There is not one weed in it, you know the perfect, manicured, Egg Harbor Township lawn is like a desert to a pollinating insect. We spend money on fertilizer that pollutes the water and systemic pesticides, all of that is bad all the way around. So when we use these pesticides the honeybees are bringing them back to the hive. The last thing that could be stressing the bees into CCD is a series of diseases and virus’. All three of those is being sought out by researchers, as to how they could cause the problem.

Smoking The Hives 2

Since there was about 6 hives about to be moved, it was a good idea to smoke them.

BB: Personally, where would you like to see beekeeping not just in NJ but in the country as a whole, go in the future?

TS: There is a mindset John, that commercial beekeepers are bad for beekeeping, and yet as I go around the state of New Jersey looking for disease and parasites, where I find the biggest problem is in backyard beekeepers hives. Because they are ignorant and they don’t know the right way to protect against disease. They think they are the best thing for beekeeping, and the commercial guy is the worst thing, but the commercial guy has the cleanest outfit. I think there is room for everyone, without commercial beekeeping we won’t be able to afford food. I think that there is no better place to get honey then the guy that is spinning it out by hand in his kitchen, and he harvested it right from his backyard and you happen to live next to him.

HaulingHives

The truck in the lower right corner is a flat bed which we used to haul the hives to their wintering beeyard

I’d like to keep seeing it [beekeeping] grow, but for NJ I would like to see beekeepers be able to lease publicly owned land and put a bee yard on it. Because honeybees are very good for the environment as a whole, and they pollinate plants and befit wildlife and I’d love to see that happen. I’d love to see our beekeepers organization grow. I’d love to see enough funding to see another full time bee inspector work with me. And I’d love to see answers as to why colonies are having difficultys. Not just honeybees, but even native pollinators, they are having problems also. I’d like to see public awareness for these issues keep growing.

Farm SunSet

The sun didn't wait for us beekeepers to finish our work. Alas, tomorrow is another day.

End.

Overall, I had a blast with Tim yesterday and today (he had a sale booth at Pumpkin Run Car show where he had a small observation hive and sold his wares). We worked for about an hour and a half moving about 30 hives to a field in Vineland, NJ where they will winter until the spring season starts back up.

Every time I hang out with Mr. Schuler I learn bucket loads of new information and news going on in local beekeeping.

I hope you too learned a lot and become interested in beekeeping. Stay tuned for Becoming a beekeeper: part 2

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4 Responses

  1. Really interesting article. Every cloud truly does have a silver lining – CCD was a disaster for beekeeping, but the resulting increased awareness of bees and their role has been a real positive.

    Looking forward to part 2!

  2. I think that your interview is really interesting. I did not know what collapsed colony disorder was until I read your interview. Sounds like a real problem, that could have real consequences if not fixed. Keep up the good work. Interesting idea.

  3. Hi, I like to know if you are selling wax fundation.

    • No, sadly I am not selling foundation.

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