By Jennifer Stultz
Editor Pratt Tribune, Kiowa County
Signal, St. John News
With more than 43 years of experience in the medical field, Dr. Alan Pribil is better known for what he does after hours as an Internal Medicine Specialist in Pratt than for what he does in his spare time. This is somewhat understandable since he has quite a bit of free time. But a recent Facebook post by his wife, Becky Pribil, shed light on Dr. Pribil’s lifelong interest, and some in his community are talking about the possibility of buying locally grown honey.
Pribil, who graduated from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 1979 and is affiliated with medical facilities such as Pratt Regional Medical Center as well as Comanche County Hospital and Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, said he grew up on a farm and was very busy. As a youth in 4-H.
“I had an extensive insect collection and that’s when I got interested in beekeeping,” Pribil said. “I had bees when I was in high school, and later I started keeping several hives in my yard. It’s a fun hobby, very interesting, and you’ll score points!”
Alan’s Hillside Honey will likely always be a hobby, Pribil said, but after the first harvest in September of the delicious dark-colored honey his bees make from the buckwheat, alfalfa and wildflower patches on his farm south of Pratt, it just might. several additional bottles for sale.
“Right now we have a couple of 8-ounce bottles of bear that are $10 each,” he said. “It’s more expensive than honey on the grocery store shelf, but it’s lighter in color, full flavored and local. It has a beautiful floral taste.”
Pribil said he ordered his bees from Mann Lake Ltd., choosing among varieties such as Italian, Russian and Saskatchewan (Canada). They arrive by mail in a screened box with 3# of bees and one queen bee. This was enough number to build a hive. Pribil said he hopes his hive will someday grow enough to split into two groups.
“Beekeeping is an interesting hobby,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn and a lot you don’t know yet. It’s fun to paint a frame of bees and honey and watch the bees at work and not be afraid of them.”
Of course, like everything in life, there are challenges in keeping bees and growing honey.
“You need to watch out for pests like varroamites, small hive bugs, ants and wax moths and treat as needed,” Pribil said.
Then there’s the factor that beekeeping can be quite an expensive hobby to start.
“My initial cost was about $500 to $600 for the new hive boxes, suit, equipment and $250 for the new beehive,” Pribil said. “Harvest is a laborious process. In the warmer months, when you’re checking for bees in your protective suit, it’s very hot and sweaty.”
Now that the honey is harvested and the weather may be cooling off, Pribil plans to sit back and watch his bees go about their daily activities around the farm when he’s not reading medical reports or saving lives at the medical center. “When it gets cold, bees stay active and pump their flight muscles to generate heat all winter long,” he said. “If it’s really cold, they can form a dense cluster to survive the winter; they do not hibernate. I supplement the bees with special candy plates or fresh water if food is not ready. I rarely open the hive box in winter to preserve the heat inside.”
Although Pribil’s wife, Becky, says he doesn’t really have anything to do with the hobby, except to help fill the bottles with honey at harvest, he quickly completes the results.
“It’s really delicious honey,” he said. “It’s also beautiful when the sun shines through the glass. Amazing.”
Pribil’s first honey harvest this fall also turned into a fun family activity. Son Brendan Pribil was able to drive to Pratt’s home from Colorado to help his father get the honey through a comb frame into a spinning silver drum. The hive base and frame then returned to the bee box for its winter food.
Local honey lovers are happy to see this hobby come to fruition and are ready to buy supplements.
“I’d be happy to pay because I love local honey,” Susie Farmer said.
“Nothing like fresh raw honey! Yum,” said Helen Holcomb.
Pribil said those interested in buying Alan’s Hillside Honey can contact him via Facebook message or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.