I heard today, rather belatedly, of the death of a young beekeeper. Jason Escapule was only 39. He lived south of us, down in Idaho, where he ran one of the largest round comb honey bee farms in North America. I was told his Harvard Yale Honey Bees farm, located in Princeton, Idaho, was turning out 50,000 combs of honey a year. Jason died in an accident – he was reportedly learning to fly an ultralight aircraft. It was a tiny plane with three wheels, and is sometimes called a trike-plane. Police say Jason was a student pilot, but his trainer, an experienced 58-year-old pilot, was with him when the little craft was seen spiraling downwards towards an open field. They both died on impact. That happened in November, about six months ago. Jason Escapule is survived by both his parents and several cousins. Our belated condolences to Jason Escapule’s family and friends.
I had a phone call a few years ago from Jason when he was new at his honey business. We chatted about strategies for expanding his operation, which he was just acquiring. I suggested he not get too big if he wanted to stay a comb honey producer – it is extremely labour-intensive and the beekeeper has to stay on top the entire operation. So he had only a few hundred hives – not several thousand as some western farmers operate. He liked the idea that he could produce a hundred combs from each of 500 hives and market 50,000 packages of honey. That’s about $300,000 in revenue. It takes a lot more bees to produce that much liquid honey, plus it takes big trucks and honey holding tanks. But comb honey making is a lot of hard work and takes smart beekeeping. My daughter Erika and her husband Justin produced 30,000 combs this year – so we know it’s a lot of work.
I’m not sure what has happened to Jason’s business. It is always hard to pass along a small operation of any sort when the spark plug is no longer there. But this young man was not even 40 and died unexpectedly, tragically.