Amazing Apiculturist

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Ramón holds a package of newly arrived bees, as he prepares to transfer the insects to a new hive.
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Ramón, crouching, talks bees with another beekeeper.

When Ramón Seiler of Newman Lake, Washington, was 6 years old, he became the youngest certified beekeeper in his home state. Now, at the age of 10, he manages his own hive, helps his dad work his bee colonies, attends beekeeping conventions and helps staff a bee booth at the local county fair. He has also won blue ribbons for his beekeeping projects.

Ramón’s dad, Frank, works as an electrician and calls himself a sideliner beekeeper who currently maintains 20 beehives. The term sideliner is used by commercial beekeepers for somebody who makes part of their income from raising bees and selling honey. He is also a past vice president of the Inland Empire Beekeeper’s Association (IEBA) that represents Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.

Frank explains that when Ramón was 5, he started tagging along when Frank worked the bees. For weeks he kept asking, “Papa, when can I have my own hive?”

Finally, Frank said he got tired of hearing his son’s request, so he told Ramón he could get a hive when he could read well enough to pass the Washington State Certified Beekeeping course. This course is offered annually to people interested in keeping bees commercially, or as backyard hobbyists with a hive or two used to pollinate flowers and garden vegetables.

Certified classes cover 10 weeks of lessons during the winter and early spring months and are taught by members of the IEBA. The instruction runs the gauntlet from introduction to honeybees; hives and components; flower, pollen and nectar; diseases and pests/insects; spring start-up; nectar flow; and summer beekeeping including pulling honey supers, extraction of honey, winter preparations and marketing.

Ramón said his interest in beekeeping actually began when he and his dad stopped by a bee booth at the local county fair. They asked questions about beekeeping, picked up information materials on raising bees, and learned about the beekeeping course sponsored by Washington State University and the Spokane County Cooperative Extension Office.

Frank signed up, and when the classes began that winter, he took Ramón along for company. Ramón said, “I enjoyed watching the classes, and that season I began helping Papa with his bees, and that’s when I started asking about getting a hive of my own.”

Frank and his wife, Fay, never thought their kindergarten-aged son would have the drive and determination to reach a nearly insurmountable goal that involved improving his reading skills to a point that he would be able to read and understand the course text, participate in hands-on beekeeping activities with adult classmates, and pass the test upon completion.

But the prospect of getting his own beehive was all the incentive and self-motivation Ramón needed. The next thing his parents knew, he was studying hard and putting in extra reading practice. By the time the next certified beekeeping course was offered in the winter of 2004, Ramón’s reading skills had improved enough to enroll.

Ramón’s beekeeping class included 60 adults and several teenagers. When he graduated at the end of the course and passed the oral exam at 6, he became the youngest certified beekeeper in Washington State.

“I really enjoyed the class, especially when they brought in all the insect displays,” Ramón says. And by the end of the course, he made “bee pals” with a number of his fellow classmates and some of the instructors.

Since earning his beekeeping certification, Ramón has been a guest speaker and given an introductory demonstration on installing a new package of bees at a biology science class at Spokane Community College.

He has four siblings: Taeona, 8, Kurt, 6, Isabelle, 4, and Anna, 1. Ramón’s the only one (to date) interested in beekeeping.

As a proud parent, Frank says his son makes him grin from ear-to-ear. “When I watch him, I get to relive the best times of my childhood.”

When the summer honey production season is over, Ramón pulls the frames from his hive and places them in a hand-cranked extractor to remove the honey by centrifugal force.

Ramón looks at beekeeping only as a hobby, and, at the moment, he wants to be an electrical worker (like his dad) when he grows up. When asked what he likes best about apiculture, a wide smile lights up his face and he answers, “Extracting the honey. I love eating honey.