It’s Never Too Late: Saving Bees and Learning New Tricks

“There are so many things to learn about honey bees.”

After 25 years and a resume nearly as long as his arm, Jay (or @TheBeeManJay on Clapper) knows just about everything there is to know about bees. He’s worked as a beekeeper, honey bee inspector, mentor and trainer, and teacher – it’s safe to say he’s an expert. So when he says bees are fascinating, you kind of have to believe him.

But this passion for bees wasn’t something he purposefully sought out. Jay’s always wanted to learn, yes, but bees are a new facet of that interest. Once you work as a computer programmer, master over 20 kinds of martial arts, and get inducted into the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame, one does have to find something new to become an expert in.

We sat down with Jay to discuss his interest in bees and how regular people could go about learning more. Our conversation took a turn, and Jay ended up telling us about his life experiences, his hunger for knowledge, and how bees fed into that and eventually became the foundation of his Clapper personality.

“We’re all here, on earth, and we should all be helping each other to advance and be better human beings.”

That first spark…

Jay says this love of learning began with his dad and grandfather. Both were so smart and seemed to know so much about the world that younger Jay couldn’t help but admire them. As he grew, he knew he wanted to know as much as them. Or, at least try to know as much.

So started a journey that Jay is still on to this day – one that he took us through while dispelling wisdom and insight into life and how one can grow their understanding. While his mastery lies in martial arts and beekeeping, he’s also an educational and motivational speaker, a tactical arms instructor, a survivalist instructor, and a homesteader to name a few areas of interest for him. That doesn’t include all of the odd jobs he’s had throughout his life (A drill instructor, grave digger, and computer programmer? That’s quite the resume!), each of which has taught him something.

Here’s (a few) lessons Jay has learned throughout the years.

1. Everyone is an expert at something

Even the dumbest person in the room is an expert in something special. Everyone that you could ever come into contact with knows a lot, but sometimes, you just have to find it. Jay told us a story about a man he worked with who was a little surly, a little unfriendly, and very quiet. Then one day, as they were discussing vinyl records, this coworker told them all about phonographs and the cylinders first used to play recorded sound. They’d stumbled on his niche, where he had tons of knowledge and stories to share with them.

Jay also reminded us that just because you know a lot doesn’t mean you know everything.

“You may be the smartest person in the room at this moment, but if we’re discussing computer programming and I take you three rooms down to metallurgy, you’re not going to know anything.”

Similarly, just because you know a lot doesn’t mean other people aren’t knowledgeable – and that they don’t have something to teach you. As Jay put it, “You can learn something from anybody.” However, there’s a trick to it…

2. Stay humble.

You have to be comfortable knowing that you don’t know everything. Otherwise, you won’t actually be listening to those around you. “If you’re not humble, if you’re not respectful of other people, and if you think you’re smarter than them, then you have nothing to learn. If you know they have knowledge that you can unlock, then you want to listen to them and understand where they’re coming from.”

And this isn’t just limited to areas where you’re less knowledgeable. You need to be humble even in places where you’re an expert. “You’ve got two ears and one mouth, so listen more than you talk.” Because not only can you learn from everyone, but there are bound to be blind spots in your own learning. This leads to Jay’s next tip…

3. Find people to learn with.

Learning as many of us did in school feels very insular, but Jay has found that building relationships are a key element of learning. Look for local clubs or organizations you can join, or talk to your friends and see if any of them are interested in this same topic. You’d be surprised how often you and your friends develop similar interests! But there’s one way to find people to learn with that most of us are doing without realizing. And it involves a little something we’re fond of here at Clapper.

4. If you can’t find your community, make your own!

If you’re on Facebook, then you’re probably in at least one group. But we were a little blown away to realize that you don’t need to be an expert to join a Facebook group. If you want to learn about gardening or movie production, candle-making, or blacksmithing, there are tons of groups out there that you can be part of. Some are for vetted professionals, but there are bound to be a few for people that want to learn more or are just starting out.

And the best thing? If you don’t find a group about your interest, then you can make one.

“You may find someone who has that same common interest, and then they may have the key you don’t to unlock that door. Because you may know this topic and they know that side and somewhere in the middle you’ll meet and give each other answers and help each other grow.”

Create a page, invite a friend or two that you know would be interested, and start learning together. Share some articles you found interesting, ask a question or two, and get excited about discussing your new interest with someone else. This isn’t just limited to Facebook, either! Jay shares beekeeping tips and tricks on Clapper, and you’ll find experts all over the app sharing their knowledge with our community. There’s no limit on places you can share your expertise; you’ll find people that are interested anywhere.

5. Teaching is the best way to learn.

We weren’t surprised to hear Jay share this advice, but it still rings true. One of the best ways that you can learn more about something is by teaching it to other people.

“You always have a student that asks a question and you either have to explain it in different ways because they may not understand it the first time, or they bring up a question that you just haven’t thought about and now you have to dig deeper so you know the answer the next time a student asks that question.”

And these people are coming to you with their own experiences, insight, and expertise. They’re often able to offer a new angle, and their own interest in something else might shed some light on your shared passion. Like a florist and a beekeeper – talk about a match made in heaven!

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask questions and put yourself out there. It isn’t always easy, but a necessary part of learning is failing and trying again. No author writes a perfect first draft, and no kid learns to ride a bike on the first try.

And now… Let’s talk about bees!🐝

Bee-cause, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the little critters? And who has a beekeeper in their back pocket? In the spirit of the article, we wanted to learn about bees and what we can all do to help these sweet things. (Warning, more bee puns are to come…and yes, they’re all terrible.)

Here’s what @TheBeeManJay had to say about our precious buzzing bees:

Q1: Why bees? What was the first step that you took to learn more about them?

A1: My friend came into work and announced that we would be beekeepers. I basically said “Hell NO!” But he bugged me (no pun intended) all day about it. He knew that I loved learning new things, so he talked me into reading about them. The next day I was building two hives in my workshop. The honey bees came in the following week and I transported them home with me. It was an 80-minute drive with them in the front seat. There’s always something new to learn about honey bees, so I have enjoyed them a lot.

Q2: Do you have a favorite fact about bees? If so, what is it?

A2: Facial Recognition Software came from honey bees. Back in the early 1990s when I was working as a computer programmer (before I was interested in bees) we were trying to figure out the coding to develop FRS. One of the guys was a beekeeper; he informed us that honey bees can see how wide your face is, how deep your eyes sit, and how far your nose stands out, and actually understand who your beekeeper is. Honey bees can understand different shapes and we can use that to train them.

Q3: What are some things everyday people can do to help bees?

A3: Anyone can help honey bees by using fewer pesticides in their yard or on the flowers around their house. If they have to spray, then do it just before sunset. That way the pesticides will dry on the plants by the next morning.

Plant trees and flowers that the honey bees actually need during the dearth in your area. The dearth is a dry season when the plants do not get enough rain to produce nectar and pollen. Plant these (and put the flowering shade plants underneath the trees!) to maximize pollination and nectar flow for the bees.

Never feed store-bought honey to bees. There can be American Foul Brood spores in the honey, which are okay for humans to eat but is very deadly and contagious to honey bees.

Q4: If someone wants to learn more, where do you recommend they start?

A4: By following me! They can join a local bee club, watch mine or others’ YouTube channels, and read books. The first year of beekeeping has a very sharp learning curve. Just don’t get overwhelmed, and ask questions. Beekeepers love to help “new bees” (newbies, lol). Yeah, there are no good bee jokes. I promise you that!

At the end of all this, Jay just wants to help people be better.

“If I can help you become a better person today or even ten years from now…as long as I can help you plant a seed in your head that grows into an oak tree of knowledge, I love that.”

So whatever your passion is, whatever you want to share, don’t be afraid to do it. Open your camera and post. It’s never too late to learn and never too late to share. And if you decide to learn more about (and to take care of) bees, be sure to tag Jay! You can check him out at @TheBeeManJay on Clapper.