Local beekeepers encourage others to take up the hobby

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - If you're looking for a new, sweet hobby - look no further than your own backyard.

Saturday, the local Tupelo Beekeepers Association hosted Beekeeper Field day - a chance for the group of more than two dozen to learn the ABCs of backyard beekeeping.

"I've been fascinated with bees for a while now," said participant Allison Smith.

Smith said she is an avid gardener and has studied entomology. Stick in the fact that she's a local honey cone connoisseur, and Smith is ready to cultivate her own colony.

"You drive around places and you see the white boxes stacked up and so you know what they are," she said. "But I didn't realize what all was inside there. And the concerns - they have beetles and they rob each other. Who knew!"

Who knew indeed! About a third of the country's bee population spends its winter in Florida.

"Just about anybody can keep bees in their backyard," said the association's President, Daniel Morthland. He's retired from the Army.

"I was trying to figure out, what am I gonna do when I grow up," he said of beekeeping. What started as a honey hobby has turned into a busy business.

"We help educate people on how to keep bees, where to keep bees," he said. "They're really not that scary. Bees are actually fairly gentle and that's just really fun to do."

The Tupelo Beekeepers Association meets the second Tuesday of every month. Organizers host a class on what you should be doing each month with your bees. They've also introduced a mentoring program for new beekeepers.

Some backyard beekeepers, like Smith, are in it to help sustain wild bee populations. Others simply enjoy the fun of it and the sweet rewards.

"The bees kind of do all the work themselves," Smith said. "You just kind of help them along."