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Busy as a bee

A passion for learning new things led me to become both an ophthalmic technician and a beekeeper.

In 2016, I decided I was going to become a beekeeper. I have long been drawn to the hobby due to my family’s history with it; my grandfather was a beekeeper during the Great Depression. I found a monthly bee club and a week after my first meeting, I had my first hive, a few tools, and a lot of new friends.

Hive time

Learning how to care for the bees came with experience. For example, I had to learn to manage time. Working too fast or spending too much time in the hive can make the bees agitated. In terms of my schedule, I am often beekeeping on the weekends or during the afternoons and evenings after I come home from my job as an ophthalmic technician at St. Luke’s Cataract and Laser Institute, at Tarpon Springs, FL.

The bees’ care involves inspecting the hive, which is made of eight to 10 “frames” set into a wooden box; this box is also called a “brood box” or “honey super.” The bees build their honeycomb in the frames, and each frame is removable for honey extraction and inspection. During inspection, I make sure the queens are healthy and that each hive has enough food and is free of pests. I usually keep three hives in my backyard, but I sometimes have had as many as six.

Beekeeping can be a lot of work — and I actually swell up pretty badly if I’m stung, which happens from time to time — but I have enjoyed harvesting and making my own honey. I occasionally sell the honey at local craft fairs, and those sales have paid for all my beekeeping expenses. I also like to bring honey in for my coworkers. Judging by the quickly emptied bottles, it has been a big hit.

ABOVE: Ms. Topicz presents the capped honey from a recent nectar flow. LEFT: Ms. Topicz examines one of her hives.

Lessons from bees

I’ve only been an ophthalmic tech for slightly longer than I’ve been a beekeeper. Originally a veterinary technician, I felt the effects of six years of lifting, moving, and holding heavy animals. In 2014, I applied for a desk job at St. Luke’s but was told they were more interested in me for their ophthalmic assistant position. I had no idea what this would entail, but was excited to learn something new. I earned my COA certification that year, followed by my ROUB in June 2018.

Being a beekeeper has given me a good perspective on my job. Some things don’t go as planned — such as getting stung — and that’s OK. Life will carry on like it does in the hives, and the best thing you can do is to keep working efficiently. Like with bees and honey, working together for a common goal will bring sweet rewards. OP