‘Bees are just fascinating’

Meet backyard beekeeper Bill Grimmett

Beekeeper Bill Grimmett poses beside one of several hives containing bee colonies (Sara Gladney for the Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Amateur beekeeper Bill Grimmett started beekeeping in 2017 as a way to fill his time after retirement. Now, he wants to share his passion for honeybees. His 26 colonies are scattered in hives along the edges of his property along with his wife’s chicken coop and garden. The pair stays occupied with plenty of hobbies that enhance their self-sustainability.

Grimmett began his hobby as an apiarist after watching his brother-in-law work with bee colonies. He acquired some of his own, and his brother-in-law gave him a colony.

“Bees are just fascinating,” said Grimmett. “They are fascinating creatures, so the more I got into it the more interested I was, and the more I wanted to learn about them.”

He is a now a member of the Alabama Beekeepers Association, Cullman County Beekeepers Association and Blount County Beekeepers Association.

Grimmett loves teaching about multifaceted honeybees. He recently assisted with a Little Farmers beekeeping class at the North Alabama Agriplex and said he expects to give more presentations next year. He also recently became a Cullman County Master Gardener. He said his fellow gardeners often visit his property to learn the basics of beekeeping.

One of the main questions he’s asked, according to Grimmett, is “Do you ever get stung?” He said bees will only sting if they feel like the hive is threatened. “Honeybees are not aggressive. If they are just out flying around, they’re not looking for somebody to sting.”

Grimmett said, “I think honeybees are important. I’ve seen several reports that said that we get a third of our food supply from honeybees, and of course honeybees are not the only pollinators, but they are the most important.”

Grimmett maintains 26 colonies of bees, and he said colonies can contain 40,000-60,000 bees. He joked, “Somebody will say, ‘Well, I’ve got 20 head of cattle now,’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, I’ve got a million and a half head of bees.’”

He claims he is no expert as continued education about beekeeping is always required. But Grimmett knows a wealth of information, always ready to talk about pollination, honey collection, bee behavior and even the plants that are the best to have around honeybees. He has planted his own sourwood trees that help bees produce better-tasting honey.

Grimmett said his affinity for honeybees also comes from a realization of the complex workings inherent in each colony.

He shared his personal belief, saying, “I think that honeybees show there is a creator. That’s the way I think about it, and the more I look into it I say, ‘How in the world could this come about by accident?’ It just shows so much design, and that’s one thing that I think I enjoy about it.

“The Lord created man with the ability to think and make decisions. He didn’t program them on what to do. Honeybees- he programmed them with what to do. They know what to do. They don’t have to figure it out. It’s just amazing to me.”

(Sara Gladney for the Cullman Tribune)

For anyone who wishes to begin keeping their own bees, Grimmett recommends getting in touch with one of the Beekeeper Association groups.

The Alabama Beekeepers Association offers Master Beekeeper courses, which Grimmett is currently involved in. The Master Beekeepers classes teach about honeybee biology, the hive as a society, honey collecting and more.

While Grimmett noted the importance of education, he said, “It doesn’t matter how much studying you do; you’re not really going to start learning until you get bees. So, if you’re pretty brave, I’d say go ahead and learn a little bit and then get some colonies in the spring.”

Grimmett does recommend getting some education to make sure you can responsibly take care of the bees before purchasing.

He explained that the bees will not always behave exactly the way you expect, but to not get discouraged.

“The bees don’t always read the books,” he laughed.

To learn more about the Alabama Beekeepers Association and future Master Beekeeper classes, visit www.alabamabeekeepers.com/join.

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