Barry and Carmen Conrad moved to the country about 30 years ago and decided to plant fruit trees on their property.
Then they realized they needed bees to pollinate the plants.
The Conrads started keeping bees after going to a beginning beekeepers school run by the Central Ohio Beekeeping Association. Over the years, Barry became more involved with the association and is now president of the group, which still provides beekeeping classes. More information is available at centralohiobeekeepers.org.
The Conrads also founded a business, Conrad Hive and Honey, which Barry says is the only full-service beekeeping supplier in central Ohio.
They sell several "Barry's Bees" honey products, including Ohio wildflower and buckwheat varieties of honey, creamed honey, bee pollen and beeswax candles.
Barry's Bees products also are available at Celebrate Local at Easton and the Clintonville Farmers Market. For more information, visit hiveandhoney. com.
The Conrads keep 75 hives on their property on Wright Road near Canal Winchester and they have a quite a few others located in neighboring counties up to 20 miles away.
Barry, who is retired after doing portrait photography for 45 years, said he and Carmen do it for fun.
"This bee thing is just a hobby," he said.
Although the Conrads consider beekeeping a hobby, they enter a number of local and national contests every year.
In 2013, Carmen's creamed honey, which is created by finely controlling the crystallization of the honey, won a first-place award at the American Honey Show in Hershey, Pa.
Barry's Bees honey also was featured in a special 2010 flavor of Velvet Ice Cream after an 8-year-old's recipe for honey and caramel ice cream was chosen in an Ohio Farm Bureau flavor contest.
The Conrads also are keeping the hobby in the family and their granddaughter, Tess Conrad, won a best of show award in 2013.
Tess has a group of purple-painted hives she keeps separate from her grandfather's hives.
Barry says bees are gentle by nature. However, he always puts on a veil while checking the hives.
"You don't want to get stung in the eyes," he said.
He also uses a smoker to try to calm the bees.
"The bees get excited and send out pheromones. The smoke masks the smell," he said.
During the Ohio State Fair and at special events like the Lithopolis Honeyfest, Barry covers his upper chest, neck and lower face with honeybees to create a "bee beard." He said he rarely gets stung when doing it.
"When we do the bee beard, normally I don't get stung. The girl who was helping with it at the Ohio State Fair this year got stung twice," he said.
Barry said he checks on the bees in his hives about every 10 days to ensure the queen bee is still alive and laying eggs.
He said recent declines in bee populations are troubling.
"Bees are in trouble worldwide," he said. "Not just the bees, but butterflies, everything. We think it's toxins in the environment."
He said the bee population is important to agriculture.
"One-third of our diet depends upon the honeybee population," he said. "For many years, the average loss in Ohio was 10 percent of the bee population during the winter. A few years ago it was 30 percent and last year it was 50 percent."