How Frau Smith Honors Her Family History


courtesy of Susanne Smith

German teacher Susanne Smith poses with her beehives. Smith’s grandmother kept bees to make a living after the end of World War II. “She [would go] clinking down the cobblestone streets, and she would sell honey,” Smith said. “So beekeeping represents my family.”

Maddie Hart, Staff Writer

Early in the morning, German teacher Susanne Smith grabs her smoker, suits up in her white bee suit, and collects honey from her beehives.

“I can’t drink my coffee before I go out to the bees in the morning; they hate the smell of coffee,” Smith said. 

Although beekeeping has become a more prominent hobby, for Smith it is a way to honor her grandmother. 

“Beekeeping represents my family and I remember where I’m from,” Smith said.

At the end of World War II, her grandmother kept bees and sold honey, while her mother was pulled out of eighth grade to make fur coats to help provide for the family. Through their efforts, Smith was able to be the first one in her family to attend college. 

Smith has taken her family’s history with her; beekeeping has become an important part of her daily life. 

“In the morning, when I wake up, I don’t think about what I have to do and the deadlines I have to do,” Smith said. “The first thing I think about every day is what the weather is and what the [bees] need.”

To protect her bees, Smith depends on an electric fence, a motion activated camera, chemical control, and her neighbor Donna, who is in her 70s, to keep out all enemies big and small.

“My neighbor called me and said, ‘there’s a bear in your front yard,’ and I’m like ‘Donna, go in the house, don’t be outside,’” Smith said.

Sadly, another enemy to beekeeping is abandonment. Sometimes, people who have bought hives no longer have the means to take care of them; they abandon their hives and leave their bees to die. 

Smith and Leonard Rickerman, who is the owner of Rocky Mountain Bee Supply, advocate for proper education before one considers taking up beekeeping. 

“Do everything you can to be prepared and ready when the time comes to start your beekeeping journey,” Rickerman said. 

Just as her grandmother taught Smith and her family how to keep bees, Smith carries on the tradition by apprenticing those who are new to beekeeping.  

“I’ve helped neighbors before where they’re starting and a lot of times, they’re just too scared,” Smith said. “They’re like ‘I got stung’ [and] I’m like ‘yeah, it’s gonna happen, take a deep breath, and let’s see what we can do.'”