If you don’t already know about Kamon Reynolds and his YouTube channel with over 52,000 subscribers, it’s time you check him out. You’ll find it on YouTube under his name or the channel’s name Tennessee’s Bees. There he discusses a problem,...
If you don’t already know about Kamon Reynolds and his YouTube channel with over 52,000 subscribers, it’s time you check him out.
You’ll find it on YouTube under his name or the channel’s name Tennessee’s Bees. There he discusses a problem, a technique, a new product, a solution, chats with a guest and more, and it’s all about everything you can imagine bees, beekeeping and beekeepers.
His show is laid back, easy to follow and right on with current beekeeping information, science, technology, skills and more, all in an incredibly beekeeper to beekeeper discussion.
Plus, for the past 2 years he’s hosted a meeting called Hive Life, a two-day extravaganza in eastern Tennessee with more than 1,000 attendees and more vendors than you can imagine. The 2023 conference in early January is already sold out, but you can sign up to be notified if more space opens up.
Kamon and his wife Laura (who was keeping bees when they met) have been in the bee business over 18 years, they run over 250 wood and plastic hives, sell nucs, some queens, honey and gladly share what they know and think you might be interested in on a weekly basis. Check out their YouTube program and we’ll bet there’s something there for you.
Kim brings us a new book review in this episode, "Splitting Colonies for the Small-Scale Beekeeper" by David MacFawn.
We hope you enjoy the episode. Leave comments and questions in the Comments Section of the episode's website.
Thank you for listening!
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global offers a variety of standard and custom patties. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!
We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. Betterbee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer service, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, Betterbee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com
Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website: https://www.strongmicrobials.com
Thanks for Northern Bee Books for their support. Northern Bee Books is the publisher of bee books available worldwide from their website or from Amazon and bookstores everywhere. They are also the publishers of The Beekeepers Quarterly and Natural Bee Husbandry.
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Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; A Fresh New Start by Pete Morse; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
Kim Flottum: I'm Kim Flottum.
Global Paties: Hey, Jeff, and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing root production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs.
No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at www.globalpatties.com.
Jeff: Thanks, Sherry, and thank you, Global Patties. Each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen, from the transcripts, the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, the subscriptions, the recorders, they enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today.
Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us. We're really happy you're here. Before we get started, just a quick reminder to subscribe or follow Beekeeping Today Podcast and give us a five-star rating. It really does help. Also, we are now adding complete transcripts of each episode on the website after the show notes. Check them out. You can also leave questions and comments online. Under each show, you can leave a comment, ask a question, reply to a question, ours or a listener's, click on, "Leave a Comment," at the top of the episode's show notes to join the discussion.
Have you listened to an episode and thought, "That person sounds really interesting, and I'd like to know more about him?" Now you can. Each episode links to a guest profile. Each profile has a guest photo, bio, contact information including Instagram and Twitter details if they have them. Check it out. Finally, share the podcast with your beekeeping friends, email them links or mention them at your next beekeeper meeting.
Hey, everyone, thanks for joining. We have a good show all cued up for you. Now, I don't know about you, but I find this time of year challenging. My mind wanders, energy levels dissipate. I eat too much and I buy things I probably shouldn't admit to spending the money on. I know this about myself, so I try to make use of the extra time winter brings by reading what I couldn't get to during the madness of the prior season. I try to learn new things, new management techniques, and approaches. Last winter, I even built a new long Langstroth hive that I have bees in.
Speaking of building stuff, I was invited to join Jim Tew on the Honey Bee Obscure Podcast for this coming Thursday's episode to talk about building equipment. If you've ever considered building your own, you'll want to listen to this one. Anyways, another way I educate myself is to watch select YouTube videos about beekeeping. There, I can learn and see what other beekeepers are doing in their region of the country, or even the world. It can be really enlighting. Of course, one needs to be critical of what is being said by the beekeeper because it is the internet and it is possible to hear all sorts of wild, fantastical, and just plain wrong information. You need to be selective in what you view.
Here's a couple of quick tips on what to search for in deciding what is good and what may be questionable. Typically, information from universities and governmental agencies is vetted and well-researched. Examples of these include videos from University of Florida, UC Davis, University of Maryland, USDA-ARS bee labs. Another's organizations dedicated to supporting honeybees and pollinators. This includes Honeybee Health Coalition, Bee Informed Partnership, Project Apis m. Of course, there are many different beekeepers out there with videos showing their techniques bee yards, and their experiences. We've had several of them on this podcast.
Today, we bring you one of the most innovative beekeepers out there on YouTube. Not only in his content and guest, but as you will hear in a moment, his Hive Life Conference. Today we've invited YouTube beekeeper Kamon Reynolds to the show to talk about beekeeping and his conference. Kamon is a Tennessee beekeeper managing 250 colonies with his wife and the help of his two children. This is both an entertaining and enlightening discussion with one of today's notable YouTube beekeepers. I am sure you will enjoy it. That's coming up, but first, Kim joins us with a book review. Hey, Kim, what do you have for our listeners today?
Kim: Well, Jeff, I just received a new book from our good friends at Northern Bee Books. It's by David Macfawn, who's from South Carolina. He's already got three other books to his name that we've looked at previously. This one's called Splitting Colonies, and it's a guide to making splits for the small-scale beekeeper. I think most of us can pretty well identify with being a small-scale beekeeper. Like many books from Northern Bee Books, this is short focused, easy to use and read, and it's focused, to the point, and chock-full of good information.
This is a chapter in a book, not a whole book really if you want to look at it that way. It's only got 30-some pages. Each page has good information and there's not any wasted space or other things that you don't need to know about splitting colon. The greatest value, I think, is that he very carefully explains and spells out the timelines needed to give the reader a heads-up on what to expect, and more importantly, when to expect it. If you're out there guessing, that's what you're going to be doing. You're going to be wasting a lot of time out there looking and not needing to do anything, and maybe not out there when you should have been doing something, and he spells out how to make this work.
Whether you start with a frame just with eggs, a frame with larva only and maybe eggs, a frame with capped brood, or a colony using an unmated queen and even a mated queen. All of these schedules are going to be different, and you need to know ahead of time how long they're going to take for you so that you can be out there doing what needs to be done before it's needed. Each has a timeline to be aware of and you can plan ahead in the schedule so you aren't always trying to keep up. My biggest problem with splits is you've heard the term walk away splits.
Well, unfortunately, sometimes that's what I do. I make a split and I walk away, and then it just ends up not working very well. Each chapter has a timeline and lots and lots and lots of good photos to show you what's going on when he's telling you what you should be seeing, so you know that what you're looking at is what he's talking about. It's available from Amazon for only $15, and you can have it before Christmas and be ready to go this spring. Splitting Colonies by David Macfawn, published by Northern Bee Books. Get your copy today.
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Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbials site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. Sitting across a virtual Zoom table right now is Beekeeper Kamon Reynolds. You may know him from his YouTube channel. Kamon, welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast. We're happy you're here.
Kamon Reynolds: Thanks so much, Jeff and Kim, for having me. I've watched, well, listened to several of your podcasts over the years and I'm really humbled to be on.
Kim: It's nice to finally meet you Kamon. I've seen some of your programs, and likewise, it's nice to be here with you.
Kamon: Thank you. We're just beekeepers trying to help other beekeepers out. There's a lot of confusion and our goal is to try to make it a little less confusing, and ultimately, make it more fun because beekeeping is fun. We want other folks to be able to enjoy it as much as my wife and I have over the last 20 years.
Kim: That's an excellent goal. Let me back up a half-a-step Kamon and say, can you just fill us in on your operation? How long, how big, what do you do with what you've got and bring us right up to today, and then we can take it from there with your broadcast.
Kamon: Absolutely, and I started when I was 14 years old, and didn't know what I was doing. I've always been into agriculture quite a bit. I met a guy, a small beekeeper here in Tennessee and I was helping at a sorghum festival makes sorghum molasses. He brought two types of honey and an observation hive to this little festival, and it blew me away. I was already doing some small farmer's markets and stuff and I wanted more products that I could sell and honey was in high demand and short supply. Up to that point, the only honey I'd ever had was from Walmart. It was pretty disgusting and made me wonder why anybody would ever want to eat that stuff.
When he let me sample the black locust and then Wildflower Honey that he had, it was just a big eye-opener to me on how diverse honey was. Within a couple of months, at 14 years old, I talked my dad into letting me get five hives of bees and started from there. It was a rough, rocky road because I didn't know what I was doing. I jumped into it a little too fast. I'm very passionate person but don't always think before I leap. That's one of our goals with everything that we do is to encourage and help other beekeepers be able to do it better. I started at 14 and as a hobby/sideline, I knew I wanted to turn it into a sideline.
As I got later into my teens, I knew I wanted to make a career out of this, so sourcing as much information as I could, reading as many books as I could. I'm going to get off on a little segue here but I was reading some stuff from a guy named, well at the time I thought it was a gal named Kim Flottum. I'd been reading all these articles and a book or two from this fine lady who had good information by the name of Kim Flottum. A few years later after reading this, I saw something on probably YouTube or somewhere else and there was a guy named Kim Flottum and beekeeping. I was like, "Oh, that's not quite right."
All the Kims in my life were girls at that point but it was a shock. I think I was around 19 years old when I first realized that you were a guy. It's been a pleasure to meet you and get to talk to you already. From getting back to the main point though, my wife, I met her when I was around 18 and she was keeping bees as well. My wife is a beekeeper. We got married and decided to really push this as far as we could but we struggled so much early on consistently losing 50% or more of our bees because we did not understand treating for mites fully. We did not understand monitoring, we didn't understand how much feed did we need to give the colonies. There was just a lot of fundamentals that we didn't know.
I read a lot of literature, but there's just a lot of hands-on experience that I didn't have. If I could change one thing, it would be to find some competent beekeeper and mentor under them, but I couldn't find anyone locally. We just kept trial and error, trial and error. I took a job and we built up to about 100 to 200 hives over the course of my early 20s. As of a couple of years ago, I was able to jump out of my semi truck and be able to go full-time beekeeper with my wife. The most colonies we've ever had is 450. We focus primarily on producing pure honey and selling nucleus colonies. We have sold queens in the past but we found that we prefer to focus on the honey and the nucleus colony cells instead.
My wife definitely is more of a visionary when it comes to the social media-type stuff. All I want is a hive tool and a smoker. That's why I got into beekeeping is for the basic stuff because I'm a basic guy, but my wife was like, "Kamon, you got to do the social media. I'm just like, "no, beekeepers don't watch YouTube. Nobody does that. It won't ever work." After about two years of telling me I needed to do it, I finally gave in. I told her, "Look, if we get a thousand subscribers in the first year, I'll take you out to get the most expensive steak we can find."
A year later we had 7,000 subscribers and she wanted seven of the nicest steaks she could find which was not part of the deal, but she was right and I was wrong. There, I said it, and she's been right about a lot of things and so we've built up from there. My original channel was called Tennessee's Bees. We wanted to focus on helping Tennessee beekeepers out because our educational system here isn't what it needs to be. We just wanted to help them out, and eventually, it became something that is now we have beekeepers asking us from all over the country and out of country.
It's a humbling experience and a lot of people are like, "Kamon, you're this educator." Ultimately, the way I look at it is it's a gift to me as well because I'm so exposed to so many beekeepers now that I'm learning at an accelerated rate and I love to learn about bees. For me, it's been a blessing to be able to learn more. That's basically what we do, is we run a conference, we run the YouTube channel and a few hundred hives of bees, and just focus on trying to be a beekeeper as best we can.
Jeff: You do a really good job. You mentioned your wife wanted seven stakes for 7,000 subscribers, and I was looking at your YouTube channel now and you have just under 52,000 subscribers. That's a lot of stakes, man.
Kamon: It is. I'm still working it off. It's going to take a while.
Jeff: We could branch it out into cattle. [laughs]
Kamon: Don't tempt my wife. She would love that.
Kim: For your program, Kamon, I've watched several of them, and the most one I watched was 10 myths. You tackle some really basic fundamental, straightforward stuff. I like to think of it as beekeeper talking to beekeeper as opposed to teacher talking to students. You are teaching people as you go along but I'm not subjected to, like I said, teacher talking to students. You've managed to do that and keep doing that quite well.
Kamon: Thank you. It is really more of a relationship of beekeeper to beekeeper. Part of what drives me to grow and work so hard at it is I know so many-- I've spent my entire adult life and then some in beekeeping and I've met so many awesome men and women who are 70 or 80 years old. I've met some young people as well and they all have a passion for bees and they all want community. They all want to be successful. I consider myself more as a messenger boy. A lot of times there's new information that comes out and it's great information.
That's the same thing you guys do as well as these new platforms have enabled the community of beekeeping to be able to accelerate how fast we can talk to one another and educate each other and share. When I got into beekeeping 20 years ago, if something came about, it could take three to five years to circulate from one state to all the rest of the states in the US. Then by the time it goes two states over, it's a different story half the time. It's a problem. Thankfully I'm not a tech person but it has its uses, and so it is beekeeper to beekeeper.
One of the things that I try to hang my hat on, I want to be friends with everybody, but also, there is a lot of poor information out there that has been allowed to permeate social media, YouTube, Facebook, and is in bee clubs as well. My grandpa's philosophy was, if you're not ticking some people off, you're not trying hard enough. We want to make sure that we have information that's not just good but also pushes the boundaries of what we as a community perceive as being the standard. We want to be able to see that standard go forward in our minds and everybody else's. I think we'll all benefit from that.
Kim: Just let me take a step aside here, Kamon. Tell me how I find your platform. Where is it, when is it, all of the good things about finding out how I get to listen to you?
Kamon: YouTube is how most people find us, and if you just go to the YouTube page, if you type in Kamon Reynolds, K-A-M-O-N, and then just the name Reynolds, it'll pop up. We have 500 videos currently, and it's quite a bit. That can be confusing to find the information you need. Some of our interviews are with cold-weather beekeepers, since I've never kept bees in a cold environment.
If you want to be able to find specific topics, when you go to my main page on YouTube, there's a section called playlists. If you click that, then you can learn about small hive beetles or making pollen patties or how we treat mites, or how we install a package of bees or anything like that. Our other platforms, we do Facebook to a degree at just Kamon Reynolds again. Then we have a website, hivelifeconference.com, but that's a little bit separate.
Jeff: On the YouTube, the playlist are basically the topic.
Kamon: Yes, sir.
Jeff: It's nicely done site and it's easy to navigate if you're familiar with YouTube, and because of the playlist, it's easy to find what you need. You've done a good job. You said you produced primarily the honey, do you do anything with pollen wax? I see that you produce a lot of wax.
Kamon: We do sell bulk wax. We could turn it into candles and we have sold lip balms in the past. I'm looking to expand and have some employees and a storefront one day to where we can have a lot more of a diverse product line. Currently, our operation has been run by my wife and I, and with just a little bit of seasonal help. We keep things really trim. The bees wax, we just melt it down into blocks and then we sell that to beekeepers who will actually utilize that. As far the honey goes, that's just our main thing. We have started collecting pollen and propolis, but I have not really pushed selling those. Again, we're more about producing bowl--
We sell our honey for $6 a pound, which we fill is a middle ground between the commercial low pricing and also the high hobby pricing, which often is around $10 or more a pound. We're in between to where stores can take our honey and still afford to mark it up and resell it at a profit. We just drop off cases at a time to multiple stores. That makes it low maintenance.
Like I said, we're a two-person team. We homeschool our kids as well. Both of my kids, I've got a daughter that's 10, Kathleen, and then Jimmy, he's seven. They're both expert jar labelers. Very, very good. You wouldn't believe how good a seven-year-old can be at labeling.
Kim: That's not something I've tried. That's good.
Kamon: Yes, he's a little rough on the bottom line. He eats a lot of honey for a 40-pound kid. You like to see a kid healthy and eating. The pollen, I want to sell. Primarily, I just eat the pollen and propolis myself. Then we do trap pollen using the Apimaye traps. I'm a really big fan of those. For the price, I think they're a good trap, and they're also a really good bottom board as well. They're made out of USA plastic, which I'm always a proponent of USA-made stuff. They're, actually formed in Turkey, but the plastic does come from the US.
Now, we will take that pollen and when we raise our own queens, because we raise about 90% of all of our queens, we will mix that into a pollen patty so that our queens are getting the best nutrition we can give them. We do use pollen for that.
Jeff: What part of Tennessee are you in? Eastern, Western, Central?
Kamon: North Central. We're not too far away from Cookeville, Tennessee. That's kind of central, little bit more on the east-north side. It definitely close to Kentucky but not too close.
Kim: You mentioned the Apimaye bottom board and pollen trap, but if you look at the videos that you have, it looks like you have a fair number of Apimaye hives, complete hives. You must like them.
Kamon: Well we want to explore everything in beekeeping if it's a good product, even if it's not something like our operation is going to use on the regular. That's my job as an educator as well to test product. We test a lot of product, new extractors, wax melters. We actually have helped design about a dozen different products for companies. It's not that we're the sole designer, but they will send us product and we will give them feedback, and let them know what a beekeeper wants, or at least what we think that they want.
I think this is important. It's a a tool that helps us out because we want to provide good content.
With the Apimaye hives, that was partially how that began was for us to have fresh content on something we didn't have and for them to get our feedback. We work with Apimaye on a few different things, and I really like working with them. They pay attention to what beekeepers request in their products, which I think is an admirable trait. I do like them. I think the one thing that when you are on a 300 or 400 colony scale, there are some things that are different to consider versus if you run 5 to 10 hives.
They're very durable and strong, they work very well, and my bees definitely bared a 10th as much in our hot summers in Apimayes as they would in our wood boxes. On a commercial scale, they totally can work but the cost can be a factor. I think for the hobby and sidelined, they make a lot of sense though. If you're wanting an insulated hive, I've been nothing short of pleased with the strength and durability of the Apimaye hives for sure.
Jeff: While we're talking about products, let's take this quick opportunity to take a short break and we'll be right back with Kamon Reynolds.
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Kim: Kamon, when you're speaking about products and that brings up, you run a conference every year. By looking at your page earlier today, I see that this year's conference is sold out, so people that are interested in going are going to have to be patient and wait until next year. Tell us a little bit about the conferences that you run and how I can find out more for next year.
Kamon: Absolutely. This is something I'm monstrously excited about because being a beekeeper myself, I started as a teenager, I went to a lot of conferences. Not all of them are this way, but a lot of them are boring if I'm being quite honest and I'm not okay with that. Beekeeping is too exciting and too fun for conferences to be boring. That was part of the reason we started, and plus my wife said it was a good idea. After this much time being married, I realize that if she's thinks something's a good idea, we ought to explore that.
As far that goes, how you can learn more, is hivelifeconference.com. Also, there's a very interactive Facebook page. We have about six posts a day right now. Beekeepers and companies also interact on there and it's a lot of fun. I think it's healthy for the industry because there's an open line of communication between dozens of companies and the beekeepers as well. I think this is good for the company so they can get that feedback to know where to put their attention to. For the beekeeper, it's great for them to see which companies actually care about them, which companies are going to innovate and which ones actually will listen.
That is just, if you go to Facebook and type in Hive Life Conference and a search, it'll come up and you'll find that.
Jeff: H-I-V-E, L-I-F-E.
Kamon: A lot of people get it confused with the product Hive Alive, and it's easy to do. Everything's hive this or apis that or apis something, so it's all good. As far the conference goes in regards to being sold out, there is a waitlist. We are going to continue to grow this conference. Currently, we have 1,800 beekeepers attending and we have about 300 people with the vendor staff. Then, of course, we have speakers. We're going to have a 2,000 person conference for sure. It's super exciting. We have 42,000 square feet of vendors. It's very interactive. You'll get to see a fellow creaming honey on site.
We have folks that are going to be using some new tools that have never been seen before. Cutting comb honey and just, we want to make it interactive to make it fun. One of the things that we do a little bit differently as well, and I think what makes Hive Life work as far as how we've been able to get people to show up, it's multifaceted, but primarily, we just put on a beekeeper conference and the speakers are all very competent, friendly. It's like a beekeeper talking to a beekeeper.
A couple of the folks that come right to my mind are Bob Bennie and Landi Simone. Both of them are extremely competent beekeepers. Both of them are very nuts and bolts but also are very smart when it comes to the science and be husbandry side of things. They're able to communicate that very well to the audience. There's a lot of brilliant people in this industry, but some of them are not very good at being able to communicate their brilliance down to a younger beekeeper. We really are picky about our speakers. I want to hear them in person or hear a very good YouTube video. We focus on getting speakers that are just good beekeepers.
We want to learn from the successful because we want to be successful too. I think that's what most beekeepers want. We heavily focused on that, but then we focus as well on making sure that we have really good pricing there. I think this drives the numbers up tremendously. It's expensive to go to these conferences, and with the way gas prices and different things are right now, everyone's trying to save a few bucks. One of the things that we have done is we have got a hold of some of these companies and encouraged them by either working out deals or whatever it is to get a really good price. We're able to get semi loads of product to the conference.
I estimate around 12 plus semi loads of product on the floor. When we can move this much product for these companies, they're willing to play ball and we can get hobby beekeepers, commercial pricing on a lot of these things. That helps really offset some of their costs. That's one thing that we are very active in seeing that happen from. We started out that way and we're going to continue to do that.
Jeff: That's really smart. It's a really great idea both for, as you mentioned, the vendors and the beekeepers as well. Kudos to you. How many years or how long have you been doing the Hive Life Conference?
Kamon: This is our third year. Our first year we had 225 and we just had one speaker in a room, and last year, January, we had, with vendors, about 900 people, maybe just shy of that. Then here we are at this year, so we've had it a few years. Part of the reason it's grown as well is we have a good time. So far, we have yet to see any group of people leave, whether that's vendors or people that walk away and aren't excited to come back again next year.
We make sure the networking is paramount too. Beekeepers love talking about bees and seeing bee gadgets. There's a lot of things to love there, but we also keep it short and sweet. Our conference is only about two days and it's like college football. The season is over with really fast and you don't want to miss too many games. [laughs]
Kim: Well, you're squeezing a lot in a very short period of time. I can imagine not having enough time to do as much as I would like there.
Kamon: Yes, so you'll want to come back to next year.
Kim: Well, that's part of it. The other part of that is that if I was there and didn't get to see that, I've got a lot to tell the people about when I go home that I'm going to go back and see next year. It's actually a good form of advertising.
Kamon: I think so. We've brought in, as you guys are aware, several other YouTubers that many of them are definitely more famous than I am and guys like Bob Bennie who are better beekeepers than I am. The main reason I was reluctant to get into the YouTube scene is because I knew and still know that there are beekeepers out there that are more competent than I am. I use that as an excuse not to do a lot of these things but I realize that if somebody needed to do these things. If it had to be me, then so be it. I've been fortunate that guys like Bob Bennie are willing to work with me.
Bringing personalities like Bob in, and we bring in a fellow, I'm going to throw his name out there, Randy McCaffrey. He has the Dirt Rooster channel, and what he does is cutouts. They have tons of bees that get in houses down there in Mississippi and Louisiana and they cut him out of houses. He's a cutout guy, but I really call him more of a cutup guy because he's a funny person and he's got a lot of fans. We've had him and Bob every year at our conference and it's more like a reunion. People really look forward to seeing these guys and it's crazy. People will come up to him and, "Can I get your autograph," and, "I want to buy this hat from you," and, "Can I get a picture with you?"
I think we've been missing that in beekeeping. Every other industry, you have that in sports, you have that in everything, technological fairs, all kinds of stuff, but in beekeeping, we really haven't had our stars. You have to be careful because it's a double-edged sword. You put the wrong people on a pedestal and they can cause a lot of damage really fast. That's the sobering fact with YouTube and your podcast or any of these platforms, is if I get on a YouTube video and say, "Hey, try this new mite treatment. It was developed by a redneck here in East Bernstadt, Kentucky, whatever."
The scary thing is probably a thousand or more of my subscribers would try it out before looking into it and very well could damage their hives or worse. It's a sobering responsibility to have this much of a following.
Jeff: It is, and Kim and I will agree with you that you have to take that responsibility seriously to protect the listeners and protect the podcast or your YouTube video that you're putting out. You don't want to mislead anybody with wrong information.
Kamon: Absolutely. Our long-term goal is, this is incorporated now into part of our business. That's how we're able to grow because everything that we do is treated like a business, the conference, the YouTube channel, and so I think that's important. I think a lot of our competition is not treated like a business, and therefore, we are able to grow very quickly and take market share because whether that's YouTube or anything else. When it's treated like a business, if we do a great job, we can grow. If we do a terrible job, then we'll lose our shirt and get out.
I think that competition is important, but our ultimate goal is, I'm 34, I hope to be doing this when I'm 74 in some form or fashion. I need a healthy industry to grow into and I hope that one of my kids maybe will take the bee business and go with it, so I need a healthy bee industry. I'm not okay with the mindset or the mentality that beekeeping is just not what it used to be.
It's not, it never will be like it was in the '70s, but the fact that we're just going to let things drift away from us-- I'm predicting right now in the next five to 10 years, we're going to see a nice surge in beekeeping and not just people coming in, but retention. I'm very excited about the future.
Kim: Well, that's certainly a good platform coming from Kamon. I appreciate your optimism. I carefully admit that I share that with you. I think we're on the right page, heading in the right direction. I'm a little older than 34, but I'm hoping for a few more years yet. [laughs]
Kamon: Good deal.
Jeff: The great thing about what you're doing, your business approach to your channel does not overtake the fun that you have, it sounds like in the conference, and also in the fun and the love you have for beekeeping that comes across easily in your videos. Even though you treat it as a business and you drive for the quality that a business needs to be sustainable, you don't let that override the fun and the enjoyment for the listener, for the viewer. That really does show in your videos, and I commend you for that. That's a good job.
Kamon: Well, thank you. Beekeeping is where we decide to make our business and our home, and if everyone else is not benefiting from what we're doing, then something's wrong. When it comes to products we test or information that we give, I'm looking 10 years out, I'm looking 20 years out, what are the impacts of this? We are starting to more and more engage with companies very carefully and helping not only design products but helping promote companies.
As beekeepers, we've done this for a long time, but like I said before, where it could take four or five years for a new product to really make the rounds, now a new product, and I've been very thankful to be a part of several cool products in the last couple years, I can do a video and get 50,000 views or more on a new wax melter or vaporizer or whatever. As long as it's a good product with good customer service, then it's great education and good for the industry. Again, it's a double edge sword, but since we have partnered with some of these guys, we've been able to really help these small businesses go from zero to very successful businesses quickly and the beekeepers are putting their money in places.
That's really what I'd like to see, is educated consumers on the products, and so we're putting our monies into companies and into individuals who innovate for us and love our industry and are trying to constantly create more and better things for us. The trade show we have at Hive Life is just that in one place. Whether you love Lyson or Thorne, which is a new Wisconsin extractor or a Dadant, or whatever brand, you can see them all there at Hive Life. Now you can get your hands on them, talk to the owners, and really say, "Hey, this is exactly what I'm looking for. Oh, I'm glad I saw that first." Then they'll take that home to their bee clubs. I hope long term we'll have a little bit more product education. I think that'd be good.
Kim: There's a message here for people who are producing products, is, if you want the attention, you need to talk to beekeepers. This is one good way to do it.
Jeff: Listen to beekeepers. [laughs]
Kim: Listen to them. Exactly right.
Kamon: Absolutely. We don't really have to bash. I don't think that's my job. What we can do though is just focus on the companies that are doing it right, and people aren't dumb. I think what's really hard though, and I was in this position not too long ago, you get into beekeeping and you have so much to learn. You have to learn how to keep your bees. You have to learn about which companies are doing what and which product does this, and all that kind of stuff. It's a big learning curve, and I think that we're able to straighten that out through social media means.
I'm just hoping that since the money is going into the pockets of the people who care about us innovate, that long-term, I think that's going to mean we'll have a lot more cooler products and maybe more mic controls and better genetics for bees. That's one thing I'm excited with towards the future, is using social media to find out which companies are actually doing the groundwork for better genetics and trying to get better bees in the hands of a lot more people so we can get ahead of some of these problems.
Anything that'll help beekeepers out, I'm more than ready and willing to work with any company or an individual if it's going to better beekeeping. The only thing that bothers me is the companies or individuals that look at beekeeping as a cash cow and as a way to put off snake oil because I see this quite often over the last 20 years. I'm sure, Kim, you have seen several things as well over the years, where companies come in and they throw in a new-fangled idea with the right words and stuff. New beekeepers just don't know better. I'd like to see that not be such a big problem in beekeeping.
Kim: Even sometimes the people carrying the message don't know better because it is so new and it's so untested. From a consumers perspective, look twice. What's the product and who's sending the message and who's following up on that, so it's good advice. Absolutely.
Kamon: One of the things that Bob has really inspired myself and a few other people and Ian Steppler in Canada has done this as well is beekeepers that are working with universities. Universities have a specific set of skills that are very important to our industry and the researchers there, but also beekeepers need to get a little bit more active too and pull our weight. I think pooling resources between both industries is fundamental.
There's been beekeepers for many decades doing these, commercial guys, behind the scenes but I think there's a lot more room for it, and I'm excited. Maybe it's just me living in my own bubble world but I see so many new products in the pipeline because of our interaction with companies. I see so much research and stuff. I just can't help but in the morning get excited about what's happening and beekeeping next.
We have with our kid program at our conference, 26 young men and women that are fully sponsored and their guardian and their hotel, everything. These are 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, all throughout those teenage years and 12-year-olds that are, some of them are running like 50 hives and several of them are making splits and grafting queens already in their teens. [laughter] I wasn't grafting queens in my teens.
I'm seeing this with all these kids and my hope is I can bring them to the conference and they can see all these cool products and get to see their heroes like Bob Bennie and get that autograph. They'll leave and go, "Wow, there's a place for me in this industry. There's other weirdo kids like myself in this industry." That's the way I felt when I was a teenager because nobody was my age. They can see that there's a future there, and there is. I think there's more opportunity in beekeeping now in some ways and a different realm than there ever has been. It's not a matter of can you sell it, it's can you produce. That's what we've got to educate people is how to be able to do that.
Jeff: Kamon, you really are doing a good job in communicating to a new audience and a different audience and to the YouTube audience, the power of beekeeping, the joy of beekeeping, and how they can make it better for themselves. I'm glad that you are doing this for beekeepers and you're leading the way for others.
Kamon: I really appreciate you guys. I have listened to, I don't know how many podcasts, definitely several speakers over the years and you've actually helped me sort through some of the speakers that I pick from my conference and seeing what they're like.
I appreciate you guys quite a bit. I view it as a team, an unspoken team that we're all shooting for good things for beekeeping and I'm curious about-- I know you're here to pro-interview me, but I've got a question myself. What made you guys think about doing a podcast? When you guys started this, it was still not that trendy for beekeeping to have a lot of podcasts and stuff.
Kim: I'll tell you a quick story, Kamon. Jeff and I go back to when Jeff was living in Medina and we both belonged to the Medina Beekeepers. Life took him to other places and he ended up in Washington and he came back to visit his family and we visited one day and he just suggested, he said, "Do you ever think of doing a podcast?" My response was, "What's a podcast?" That's how far back we go. He started it and he's the tech behind this. I was running bee culture at the time so I had a finger in that part of the business and I think what we've put together has worked pretty well.
Kamon: I would agree.
Jeff: I have just a slight difference. Yes, that was basically it. Kim wanted me to write more articles and I didn't want to write articles but I did want to work with the audio and do podcasts because that was the thing back then so that's a good medium. Kim and I both have good faces for podcasting. [laughs]
Kamon: I've had several. That's one of the things with YouTube is I don't know how different this is with podcasting, I don't think it's quite as prolific with the comments, but with YouTube, you get a lot of comments. Sometimes a lot of comments, and especially when you're doing something that's a little out of the ordinary. We feed pollen patties in summer to a degree and we have methods to do this. It's totally not recommended down here and we're very careful how we recommend that. We tell people how it works and why it works for us.
Also, the slippery slope that is with small hive beetles but we'll do a video like that and the comments just [animates] they just start coming in on. "How can you do this, Kamon?" This is a crime against bee humanity and all that stuff. You'll get those comments and there'll be people like, "Kamon, you've got the best face for radio I've ever seen," and stuff like that.
My wife won't do the videos. I wish she would. If she would do the videos, I'd probably have 200,000 subscribers by now, I would say.
Jeff: It's fantastic having you on. We're coming up towards the end of our time. Is there anything that you haven't said that you want to say yet or can we just have you back and we can follow up another time?
Kamon: Of course, it would always be a pleasure to chat with you guys on or off this platform, and I think I'll just say something real quick. I've already hit this point a few times, but the future is exciting. The future is bright. We're educating ourselves at a faster level than I've seen in the last 20 years and it's just getting started. It's not just my Hive Life Conference, it's not just my YouTube channel. There's several other really good channels out there and I wanted to kind of throw some plugs out for some trustworthy sources, and Bob Bennie being one of my favorites and he's on YouTube.
Ian Steppler is on YouTube as well, more of a commercial capacity. I really like the University of Guelph up in Canada. Even though I'm in Tennessee, there's a lot of fundamentals that can be picked up from Paul Kelly. One of the YouTubers that excites me a lot is a girl, and her name is Natalie. She is 14 years old, grafts queens phenomenally well, makes splits. She has a 5,000-subscriber account on her YouTube channel and she does better than most people three times her age in beekeeping and on YouTube. There's a lot of exciting stuff and a lot of good educational sources.
There's going to be a lot of shifts in the next three years within, not only the educational side, but there's going to be a lot of massive shifts in the industry side. Right now, a lot of companies are, I'll just put it this way, there's been a pretty soft underbelly in beekeeping for a few years. Some companies have caught wind and they're making some big moves. In the next three years, especially five years, there's going to be a pretty big restructuring, how people buy stuff and who's the ones selling the most.
The companies that are doing this excite me to death. They love beekeeping, they love beekeepers, and I think we're fixing and hitting it, very exciting time at beekeeping. I hope that my wife doesn't take me out and I get to enjoy it.
Kim: Folks, you heard it here first. Again, Kamon, thank you for being here with us today. I look forward to your next program.
Kamon: Thank you, Kim, and thank you so much, Jeff.
Jeff: You bet. Next time you're on, we'll talk about some music. You can break out your mandolin, I'll break out the guitar. We can do some music in the middle of the show.
Kamon: Absolutely. I'm rustier than anything, but I'll do my best to keep up.
Jeff: [laughs] That'll make two of us. Thanks a lot for joining us. We look forward to having you back. Good luck at the Hive Life Conference here in January and happy holidays.
Kamon: Happy holidays, fellas. Take care.
Kim: Thank you.
Jeff: I always started out saying it was fun having so and so on the podcast, and it generally is, but it was really refreshing to have Kamon on the episode today talking about his channel and his positive message was encouraging. It's very, very good. I like it.
Kim: It is encouraging and a lot of people are finding it encouraging when you listen to the thousands of people. 40, what is it, 52,000 followers he's got?
Jeff: According to YouTube, yes, it's 52,000 subscribers. Yes.
Kim: That's a lot of beekeepers listening to somebody and I don't think anybody in this industry is going to top that. They probably aren't there every week, but they're there consistently enough that they're being counted and he's got a message that they want to hear.
Jeff: I will let you in on a little secret. After we had Kamon lined up beyond on a show and I was looking for a vaporizer for oxylic acid, I checked out his review of one of the new instant vaporizers on the market, and he did a such a nice thorough job on it. It really sold me on the product. He's a good marketer too. It's the level of trust he's able to inspire through his message, his use of the tool, or the product in his bees. It was well done and I know we're critical of YouTube videos often, and it's not just because podcast against YouTubes, but because of the spread of misinformation from some of the things you see on YouTube. Kamon's channel is really worth watching.
Kim: Yes. Beekeeper to beekeeper. I'm going to be honest, I'd like to think that what we do here is beekeeper to beekeeper, but having him on and listening to how he makes that work, reinforces the message that he puts out and maybe the message that some others in our industry should be listening to.
Jeff: That about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast. Wherever you download and stream the show, your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American Beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today podcast.
We want to thank our regular episode sponsor, Global Patties. Check them firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of this podcast. Check out their probiotic email@example.com. We want to thank Better Bee for their longtime support. Check out all their great beekeeping supplies @betterbee.com. Thanks to Northern Bee Books for their support of Be Books Old New with Kim Flottum. Check out all of their firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today podcast listener, for joining us on the show. Feel free to leave us comments and questions that leave a comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.
[00:51:28] [END OF AUDIO]
Beekeeper, Conference Founder, Educator
Kamon Reynolds is the co-founder of one of North America’s largest bee conferences, Hive Live https://www.hivelifeconference.com/ , is the founder of Tennessee's Bees and has been keeping bees in North Central Tennessee for 20 years.
Kamon keeps 250 hives with his wife Laurel. Kamon and Laurel also have filmed hundreds of educational videos to help new and veteran beekeepers around the world keep their bees successfully. Though Kamon does 99% of the talking, Laurel has been Beekeeping for 16 years and is an invaluable part of their Business Tennessee’s Bees LLC. Tennessee’s Bees specializes in quality Bee Genetics, Pure Tennessee Honey, and Honeybee Education. Their videos can be found on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkoAuqRak
Kamon currently has 52,000+ beekeepers that follow him on Youtube.