Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What began as a hobby for Don Trisel, a professor of biology at Fairmont State University, and his wife Kim has become much more over the years.

About 10 years ago, the Trisels purchased a piece of land behind their home in Farmington.

“It was all forest,” Trisel said. “We had some beekeeper friends at church, and I suggest­ed that they come out and put some hives on our property and take advantage of that resource.”

Instead, the Trisels’ friends made another suggestion.

“They said, ‘No, but we’ll help you get started,’” Trisel said. “And the rest is history.”

Nearly a decade since their beekeeping days began, the Trisels have been named the state Beekeepers of the Year and will officially receive their award at a banquet in April.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Trisel said.

Trisel has taken the opportunity to incorporate beekeeping into the courses he teaches at FSU.

“I teach plant science courses, so there’s a pretty strong relation between the plants and bees and the pollination process,” Trisel said.

Trisel said he will have classes come to his home and do things in the field that relate to the topics they have been discussing in class throughout the semester. Following the educational component of the home visit, Trisel said he and his students take some time to also enjoy fellowship.

In addition, Trisel encourages his students to do individual research projects related to the genetics and diseases of honeybees.

“A lot of biology majors have goals to become doctors, dentists, pharmacists and other health professions,” Trisel said. “What is a seemingly very different field of beekeeping still requires the basic research methods and techniques that they can use.”

One of Trisel’s students, Jaime Ford, has even taken up beekeeping on her own and conducts research on two beehives on her property.

Trisel said being named the state Beekeepers of the Year has opened up avenues and teaching opportunities.

“I feel privileged to be in the position that I am because I can write small grants and get a little funding for projects,” Trisel said.

It’s not just Don who is educating others. Kim Trisel does her part to spread the word about honeybees.

“I like to go into the schools because it’s important to us to pass on the knowledge and to share it with others,” she said.

Trisel said she has visited schools throughout the county to show the students what honeybees are all about.

“One of my main objectives is going into preschools to show them not to be afraid of bees,” she said.

Not only are the Trisels educating others about beekeeping, but they are continually learning themselves.

“I keep learning more and more about beekeeping the whole time,” Don Trisel said.

Trisel has also made significant contributions to the beekeeping industry as a whole. In 2010, Trisel performed testing for a disease known as nosema on samples that individuals sent to him.

“That was a community service project,” Trisel said. “I don’t like to do things that are so esoteric that nobody cares. I’d rather have my projects be more applied and of interest to a wider population.”

The analysis of the samples gave valuable insight to the individuals who were seeking it.

“People could save money by not treating it if they didn’t have the disease, and if they did have the disease, they could do something about it and hopefully prevent the loss of that colony,” Trisel said.

And even as time goes on and the Trisels move beyond incorporating beekeeping into their professional lives, they won’t give it up entirely.

“Through retirement and old age, it’s something that we will do,” Kim Trisel said. “It’s one of those things that makes us happy, and the goal is always to be happy.”

This story, written by Kaylyn Christopher, was originally published in the Times West Virginian on Feb. 14, 2013, and is posted here with permission. E-mail Christopher at kchristopher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter: @KChristopherTWV . For more information about the Times West Virginian, visit www.timeswv.com.

About the photo: Fairmont State University Professor of Biology Don Trisel works with students Jaime Ford, Aaron Deese and Eva Mullins on honeybee-related research. Trisel and his wife Kim were recently named the state Beekeepers of the Year.