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A busy bee

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Chip Slack
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
After adjusting protective gear and a smoky haze filled the air, the overwhelming hum of more than 70,000 honey bees began to die down. The scent of burning pine needles, meant to calm the swarm, seemed to finally settle over the massive beehive affixed to a residential home, waiting atop a ladder resting dangerously close to a bedroom window.

Once the bees seemed sedated, a bee-keeping, suit-clad Paul Hopkins, 27th Special Operations Force Support Squadron community center manager, climbed his way to the top of the ladder and began his hive removal process.

After spending an impressive 22 years serving his country, Hopkins became a recreation specialist at the base Youth Center, eventually landing in his current position as the community center manager. There, Hopkins advocates for the foundation of the Air Force - Airmen.

"I want all airmen that are assigned here to have a place to get away from the daily grind and decompress," Hopkins said. "It is important to have something positive in your life that takes your mind off of work and becomes an escape. Bee-keeping is my escape."

As a child, Hopkins was fascinated with bees, it was not until late 2014 when Hopkins finally took his fascination to the hobbyist level.

"I remember sitting as a kid and watching them travel from flower to flower, and thinking how amazing the bees where," Hopkins said. "That fascination led me to check-out a local beekeeping seminar. There, I ordered my first two hives of bees."

Since that first order, a childhood captivation turned into a flourishing passion. Hopkins focused his efforts into creating a local beekeeping club; a feat that was nearly a year in the making. The club educates the community on bees, their meticulous infrastructure and their beneficial role in nature.

Most foods grown for their fruits require pollination, the transfer from male to female plants of the same species, by insects. Bees, and other pollinating insects, play a critical role in maintaining natural plant communities and ensuring production of seeds in most flowering plants; a role that bee-keepers alike take very seriously.

Aside from maintaining his own personal hives, Hopkins focuses much of his time on hive removal from residential areas.

"Bee-keepers focus on helping and protecting bees," stated Hopkins. "Removing bees from homes and buildings is one of the best ways we can do that. Many home owners run straight to pesticides and that is the worst thing they can do. It kills bees and makes their wax and honey unusable."

"We remove the honeycomb one piece at a time and move it into frames for the bees to live on," he continued. "Once they are secured, the bees are then transported back to my yard where they will live permanently; we ensure they have enough honeycomb to survive on until they get back up and running on their own."

Hopkins relates the infrastructure of a successful beehive to the organizational capabilities of the military. Each and every bee that lives in the hive has a specific set of responsibilities – much like the different tiers that comprise the Enlisted Force Structure.

"The beehive is made up of bees at different level of development,” Hopkins said. “Their jobs are based on age. The youngest bees clean cells and feed the young, as they get older and stronger the tasks get harder. Much like our military, there are different jobs based of the experience."