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Something good is buzzing in downtown Belmont

Beekeepers Suzy Smith (left) and Brittney Ashhurst all suited up and ready to inspect Smith’s hives near the Belmont Community Garden.

By Alan Hodge

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Something or another is always buzzing in downtown Belmont and one of the best is the cluster of colorfully painted bee hives near the community garden just off N. Main St.

The hives belong to beekeeper Suzy Smith who put them there about a year ago.

“I wanted to get some bee hives but the HOA in my neighborhood would not allow it,” said Smith.

“That’s when I contacted Jonathan Taylor and he happily said I could put my hives at the community garden. It’s a beautiful place.”

Smith says she’s been a beekeeper for about a year and caught the bug after attending a bee workshop at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. 

“I fell in love with beekeeping,” she said.

The next step Smith took in her journey was to attend a beekeeping school put on by the Union County Co-operative Extension. She bought some hives and bees and her hobby took off.

Last week, Union County beekeeper Brittney Ashurst joined Smith in Belmont to check on the bees. Ashurst is a veteran beekeeper and acts as a Union County Co-operative liasion with 4H and FFA, gives lectures on bees at schools, and also co-chairs the Union County bee school.

Once they put on protective hoods and jackets, Smith and Ashurst stepped up to the brightly painted community garden hives, gave the bees a good whiff of smoke to calm them down, and gently pried the lid off of the largest hive.

Contrary to what someone might think, the bees were perfect ladies and gentlemen and never once tried to sting.

Once the lid was off, the checkup began.

“We are checking on the health of the bees, and to make sure the queen is there,” Smith said. “Each hive has a queen. It’s like a house with a mother.”

Except for a few dead hive beetles, everything in the hives looked great and most of the racks had combs and honey galore.

‘They are probably getting nectar from goldenrod,” said Ashurst.

Smith and Ashurst say the next step is to get the hives ready for winter.

“When the temperature gets below 60F we won’t open the boxes,” Smith said.

Smith and Ashurst both have buys “day jobs”, but it’s obvious beekeeping is something they are passionate about.

“It’s a serious hobby,” said Smith

About the Gaston County Beekeepers Association

The Gaston County Beekeepers Association (GCBA) is a chapter of the NC State Beekeepers Association made up of local beekeepers from Gaston and surrounding counties. The group generally meets on the last Tuesday of each month at 7 PM at the Citizens Resource Center, 1303 Dallas-Cherryville Hwy., Dallas.

Meetings usually feature a speaker who shares knowledge on various topics related to honey bees, honey bee hive management, honey production and harvesting and other hive-related products. The group also offers workshops on various topics such as queen rearing, honey harvesting and wooden ware assembly throughout the year.

The group has been organized for about fifty years and has around two hundred members. It’s one of the largest of its type in North Carolina and a diverse group with members ranging from doctors and lawyers to hippies and farmers.

 The GCBA is eager to share the love and lore of bees and members set up demonstrations at events like the upcoming Cotton Ginning Days in Dallas and other gatherings. The group holds an annual ten week bee school starting in January each year that teaches new-bees all there is to know about honeybees. Workshops also give folks a chance to build their own hive from scratch. For 2020, the school will run January 27-April 6. Time is 7-9pm. Pre-registration is required. Tuition is $95 and includes a class textbook  and a one year membership in the GCBA and the NC Beekeepers Assoc. Visit and click on Bee School to register and pay online. For more information call 704-922-2118.

Other bee facts

North Carolina is the number one beekeeping state and the honeybee is the official state insect. Beekeepers with bees for rent and growers interested in bee pollination services can post their information on the BeeLinked website at The site is hosted by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. State University Apiculture Program. Anyone interested in listing their information can do so by filling out an online Submit Your Ad form on the BeeLinked page or by contacting NCDA&CS at 919-233-8214 or by email at [email protected] or call NCSU at 919-515-1660. The NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division regulates the movement of agricultural or related items capable of spreading harmful insects, diseases, and other pests. Beekeepers participating in this program will be required to comply with all honey and bee industry regulations. 

Why are honeybees vital to humans?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, honeybees pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops, which constitute one-third of everything we eat. Losing them could affect not only dietary staples such as apples, broccoli, strawberries, nuts, asparagus, blueberries and cucumbers, but may threaten our beef and dairy industries if alfalfa is not available for feed. One Cornell University study estimated that honeybees annually pollinate $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the U.S.

See BEES, Page 5