CEDARVILLE — Outside his back door, under a tree, he caught a falling bee swarm practically on his head.
That was Stewart Kroh’s initiation into the beekeeping world.
“I’d have to say that was the scariest moment of my life,” the now-11-year-old said, remembering his attempt to capture his first feral bee colony. “We got a bucket and a broom and [Mom] started sweeping them down.”
Kroh held the ladder for his mom, Danielle Kroh, who stood ten feet up in the air.
“They all came swooping down on top of him,” his mom said, adding that he was wearing a bee suit. “That’s several thousands of bees.”
And he didn’t even get stung.
The home-schooled fifth-grader from Cedarville has been stung a few times since then — nine times to be exact — but he has no plans to give up his hobby.
Or his title: Bee Boy.
When it’s time to visit his backyard apiary, Bee Boy dresses the part.
Full white suit.
Hat, with a veil attached.
All zipped up and ready to go, Kroh makes his way out the back door, past the tree where he caught the swarm, down a gravel path, past the barn and his chickens, to a field where white- and yellow-painted bee boxes stack on top of cinder blocks.
In each hive, there’s about 30,000 to 50,000 bees.
Some bees fly out, covering the base of the boxes, or to meet Kroh in his white suit. But most remain inside, protecting their queen.
“Martha — she’s the oldest, Wilma II, Victoria, Elizabeth, Daisy, Velma,” Kroh listed the queens, one for each hive.
The beekeeper explained he split his original two hives this year into six.
“In the reverse split, you find the queen. Then you have the eggs, brood, larvae, honey and pollen. And you move her to a new location. So that’s exactly what we did with Martha,” Kroh said. “To find the queen — she’s really long. You don’t want to mistake her for the drone that is fat but not long … So anyway you find her, and mark her with the color of the year. Then you can determine how many years old she is by the color of the year.”
Kroh said splitting his hives weakened them, which translates to not a lot of honey production this year, but hopefully a lot more next year.
“We got about 100 pounds of honey,” Kroh said, who has been selling one-pound jars through his business, Bee Boy and Mom Apiary.
But before the honey and before the business, there was just that one feral swarm of bees in his tree.
“I never really had a bee hive in my yard before,” Kroh said. “It was one of the 4-H projects, so I decided why not give it a try? I gave it a try and it just stuck with me.”
Soon he joined the Greene County Beekeepers Association, where he met his mentor, Luke White. White started by teaching him the basics. Kroh and his mom built bee boxes, painted them, slid frames into each, fed their hives in the winter, and finally this spring, harvested their first batch of honey.
“We borrowed Luke’s electric extractor,” Kroh explained. “It took about five hours to extract 100 pounds.”
Now — with two Greene County Fair first place beekeeping trophies, two Ohio State Fair trips, six hives and 100 jars of honey under his belt — Kroh is beyond the basics.
He’s even visited the Central State University apiculture lab and studied mites — which sometimes attack bees — through a microscope. And he’s been thinking about new experiments regarding another pest called hive beetles.
But, even as the Bee Boy, Kroh’s business isn’t just about him — it’s a family thing.
“Dad’s the landscaper. Kate’s the marketer. I’m the labor and he’s the brains,” Danielle Kroh said, laughing.
What’s left of the honey can be purchased at Kent’s Feed Barn or through their Bee Boy and Mom Apiary Facebook page. Kroh explained the profits are divided — some go to the business, some toward college savings, a little for pocket money and the rest for his sister Kate for marketing.
“She sells the honey,” Kroh said. “I gave her two bottles once and they were gone in less than a minute.”
Kroh hopes that, beyond his family, he can encourage others to get involved in 4-H and beekeeping, too.
“First of all, if you have hives, you get honey and the local honey helps with local allergies,” Kroh said. “Number two, it’s a good past-time — it’s just fun watching the bees — until you get stung of course. But when your hives make it through the winter you’re just very happy. It gives you excitement.”
And when that happens, he said, he’ll be right there to help.
“I think the goal is to become a master beekeeper,” Kroh continued, “just one of those people that’s been doing it for a long time and knows a lot, and helps a lot of people out.”