Freshman Austin Wright turns beekeeping hobby into a business
Ever wonder what it would be like to start your own apiary and begin beekeeping? Austin Wright, Applied Agricultural Economics Freshman, has been involved in the beekeeping industry for over ten years. In 2012, Austin began helping his grandfather with his apiary, grabbing tools and spending time learning the basics from him. In an effort to learn more, Austin began attending local beekeeping club meetings (Central Indiana Beekeepers) with his grandparents, growing an interest and strong knowledge base for the practice.
"In 2017 I attended my first The Beekeepers of Indiana club Bee School, where speakers from around the country come to give presentations about beekeeping and vendors sell the latest in beekeeping equipment. Then in 2018 I was given starting equipment and a hive by the Beekeepers of Indiana Jump starter program. In the same year I was gifted a hive by my grandfather," said Austin.
Austin explains he initially pursued beekeeping as a hobby because he found it so fascinating. As he spent more time working with bees, he realized it would need to become more of a business due to the need to sell the honey being produced. Selling to local buyers, Austin has been able to not only maintain his hives, but grow his business and network.
Earning an income from a hobby is a great benefit, but for Austin, the best part has been working with the bees themselves. "Being able to witness such a complicated insect; The production of honey, a sweetener that never goes bad; Provide good pollination to vegetables in the garden and surrounding gardens; Being able to educate others about bees is also a benefit of working with bees."
While building skill sets essential to maintaining hives, Austin also shared some of the challenges that come when working with bees. "Managing undesired pest such as the Varroa mites, Small hive beetles, wax moths; Preventing and managing possible diseases; the hive swarming; the possibility of pesticide kills; as well as the fact of working with an insect that is trying to sting you."
Not only has he pursued beekeeping as a business venture, he has built a wealth of knowledge and has been recognized for his successes in maintaining his own hives. "I received runner up for the Junior division of the Young Beekeeper of The Year award in 2018, I then received runner up for the Senior division Young Beekeeper of The Year award in 2019, and in 2020 I was the Winner of the Senior division Young Beekeeper of The Year Award. The award is given by the Indiana state beekeeping club The Beekeepers Of Indiana."
Even though Austin moved to campus last fall to begin his college career, he remains involved and dedicated to his hives. "I am lucky enough that in the time I have been at Purdue, my grandfather has checked in on the hives for me and kept tabs on them when I am unable to return for the weekend."
When asked what he will remember the most, Austin shared, "As I look back on my experiences beekeeping I would say something that I will remember most will be the complexity that exist inside the colony and how organized bees are."