When Verd Worthen was a youngster and given a box of bees by his father in 1919, little did he dream that one day he would be recognized for his longtime activity and dedication to the industry.
He was recently honored and recognized for more than 60 years of beekeeping and his dedication and service to the Utah Beekeepers Association. He served as president of the organization in 1978 and attended most of the conventions during his active years in the bee business.A pioneer in the industry, he retired 15 years ago after one of the longest, if not the longest, tenure as a beekeeper in the state's history. But his wife, Faye, can be given much credit for Worthen's interest and success. Her husband is in ill health and she accepted the association's award on his behalf.
After receiving his first hive of bees from his father, Scott Worthen, young Worthen's interest in beekeeping intensified. But those bees died, he said, maybe because he paid too much attention to them.
The second hive came with more supervision from his father and Verd ultimately carried on the family tradition.
But the venture wasn't always successful. Nectar was not always available from fruit blossoms for the bees to mix with the honey because of the high elevation of the Panguitch area.
Then along came increased use of chemical sprays by farmers. The Worthens lost most of their bees and the business wouldn't support two families.
Verd Worthen consequently left Panguitch to seek employment, finding it as a diesel mechanic in Pocatello. But his interest in bees continued and, after five years, he returned to Panguitch to help his father with the bees.
The younger Worthen and his wife also bought 500 bee colonies of their own. But he found it necessary to supplement his income with other employment and continued to work as a diesel mechanic at a sawmill for the next 18 years.
The Worthens bought out his father's bee business and Faye learned how to how to catch swarms, open boxes, check queen cells and foul broods, examine progress of the bees and the many other responsibilities that are required of a successful beekeeper.
In his early days of beekeeping, Verd's father used a steam-heated knife to uncap the frames by hand while Verd operated a two-frame honey extractor, later replaced with a four-frame extractor. The equipment finally became automated.
Vivid incidents remain in the mind of Faye Worthen although her husband now suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
She recalls thinking her husband was joking one day when he told her to turn around because a bear was behind her. "Oh yeah, and cows fly too," she remarked. It turned out to be the truth. The bear ambled away.
Then there was the time that a woman threatened to shoot Verd, who was then Garfield County's bee inspector. The woman didn't know her husband had given permission to inspect the bees.
The downfall of the Worthens' longtime bee business finally came. "Verd was ill, the sprays were killing us off and we got tired and sold out," Faye Worthen said. That was in 1980 and only 58 hives were left.
But she can still find a little humor in looking back on their lives and their activity with bees. As the years went by, "the boxes got heavier and the steps got higher," she joked.