On a warm, early spring afternoon B.J. Weeks is doing what he loves best, talking bees and sharing his passion with others.
Weeks, whose Ball Ground bee farm, Weeks Work Inc., supplies honey products to supermarkets and stores across Cherokee and surrounding counties, has kept bees for most of his life.
As he lights up a bee smoker he explains how the smoke calms the occupants of the hive, allowing the beekeeper to open the beehive and inspect it. Within minutes Weeks is holding a frame filled with honeycomb and covered in a living canvas of bees, pointing to the queen bee as she moves among the workers in the colony.
These days, the well-known local beekeeper teaches others the art and science of the hive, as well as cares for 500 hives of honeybees as they range across the state in search of the tastiest pollen to produce the delicious raw honey he is known for.
Weeks, who grew up as a child on a farm in Iowa, at the age of 10 was given the chore of taking care of the family’s beehives during the busy summer months.
“My dad and uncle bought two hives, but neither of them had time in the busy summer months when everything was about getting a crop planted. I spent some time with a bee man to learn all I could,” Weeks remembers. “The idea was to replace refined sugar, which is poison, with honey. I still have some cookbooks with recipes using honey from my childhood.”
That began his lifelong love affair with the life of bees and the health benefits of honey and apitherapy. As an adult living in Cherokee County, he continued to keep bees, but after leaving his career in sales in the 1990s Weeks turned to bees as his full-time occupation.
In the ensuing years he has helped hundreds of potential beekeepers learn the craft, served as a leader in the Cherokee Beekeepers Association, and spread the word about the healing abilities of bees.
“Several years ago we had 140 beginners at a bee school that we did at the old marble courthouse. We had the courtroom as well as the balcony packed out. That was our peak,” he remembers. The association continues bee schools each year, helping those interested in keeping bees learn how.
Healing with bees
For most people bees conjure up the sweet taste of honey, but bees can also take the sting out of the battle for better health for some fighting debilitating diseases and injuries.
Apitherapy encompasses the use of bee hive products including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom, according to the American Apitherapy Association.
While Weeks’ enthusiasm for bees is evident from the moment you meet him, he especially likes to share his knowledge of the healing properties of bee venom therapy.
Also known as bee sting therapy, it is the practice of intentionally stinging a person with health issues over time to affect a cure.
Weeks says bee sting therapy is often beneficial for auto-immune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis, as well as carpal tunnel and the removal of scars.
“When we taught people to do bee stings we would have people that had basically given up and they were afraid to have hope for things like multiple sclerosis and arthritis, and we taught them to sting themselves and sent them home with a jar of bees. When you have someone who is incapacitated by some of these auto-immune things, everything they do depends on the doctor and the medicine as to how they feel,” Weeks said. “Well, all of a sudden they are in control of how they feel. They can get rid of that pain, they can make themselves functional.”
As a commercial beekeeper, Weeks has for years been helping friends, neighbors and others who are sent his way find better health through bee sting therapy.
The latest beneficiary of his healing through bees is a young woman who at age 20 was mauled by a pit bull.
“She came to me wanting to keep bees; she had lost a large slice out of her arm to the attack and the doctors had done grafts trying to restore the use,” Weeks says. “After we talked, she decided to try bee venom therapy and where before she had little strength in her arm, now she can do handstands while she is practicing yoga.”
The young girl is named Hayden, and Weeks is now preparing a bright blue hive for her that he calls Hayden’s hive.
Weeks has a plethora of other stories of success with bee sting therapy, where he has helped sufferers from a variety of ailments get on with their lives through the treatment.
One was a 6-year-old boy from South Carolina, whose mother drove her son two-and-a-half hours to start bee sting therapy, he recalled in a blog he wrote.
As a result of receiving a flu shot while he was sick and on medication, the young boy had developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. A wheelchair was used for school and the doctor was recommending braces for his knees, Weeks said.
“We started with test stings and orientation information. They went home with a jar of bees. Two brief stings followed during the week and on Thursday the 6-year-old climbed into bed without help. As the days passed and more stings were given, the knees began to function better and the pain lessened,” Weeks wrote.
He also recalls a neighbor he helped many years ago, who was resistant to trying the therapy for many years.
“In about 1997 I had been telling the neighbor across the street in Ball Ground about bee stings. She had had pain from arthritis for about 10 years. For years she’d say pain, I’d say bees. She’d say ‘my dad and brothers have to go to the hospital if they got stung,’” he recalls. “A year went by and she said pain and I said bees, and she said that she had enough pain in her life already, that she didn’t need any more on purpose.”
But finally, her husband was retiring and wanted to travel and she wanted to be able to be a part of those plans.
“All of a sudden here was a reason for her to try to eliminate some of that pain,” Weeks said. “She finally called me a day or two later and said ‘I am ready,’ so that meant no more talk.”
The neighbor started with one bee sting for about two seconds.
“We gradually increased to five stings, and we were doing them three times a week. She to this day believes that her medicines were made more effective and lasted for 20 years because of the bees. They got rid of the inflammation.”
Bee stings can also be dangerous and some guidance will make the results safer and more effective, he stresses.
While Weeks believes in the healing power of bee sting therapy, many experts still question the dangers and effectiveness.
At least one website, Very Well Health, puts forth some strong concerns.
Some patients may experience severe allergic reactions to bee stings. In some cases, bee sting therapy can trigger anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening. Given these safety concerns, it’s crucial for anyone with a bee-sting allergy to avoid this treatment, the health website stresses.
Bee sting therapy is also known to cause pain, as well as such side effects as anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, changes in blood pressure, and heart palpitations, the website reported.
In addition, there’s some concern that bee sting therapy may interfere with immune function. In a 2009 report published in the Korean Journal of Internal Medicine, for instance, researchers suggest that bee sting therapy may contribute to the development of lupus (an autoimmune disorder).
Furthermore, a 2011 report from the World Journal of Hepatology warns that bee sting therapy may be toxic to the liver, according to the website.
Still a number of publications, doctors and homeopathic practices extol the benefits, including Weeks.
Weeks, whose mother had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheel chair, has long promoted the benefits of bees.
“If I had known when I was a child what I know now, my mother would not have been in a wheelchair,” he says.
And while stings may hurt, they are just part of his job.
“If being stung is a major issue, you don’t keep bees,” says Weeks, who says he is stung by bees almost daily as he works among the hives. “That little tiny stinger, as tiny as it is, isn’t it phenomenal the pain it inflicts?”
Sweet taste of success
The use of local raw honey is a much more popular and easily digested route by those looking for natural ways to heal.
Raw honey is considered beneficial for colds, allergies, heartburn and burns. It is touted as a sugar replacement and to treat asthma, build the immune system, and provide more energy and better sleep.
Weeks said he has had several children whose mothers purchased his honey because they were suffering from severe allergies and medication was no longer helping.
“A few months ago a mother came to get raw honey for her son. He was about 9 years old and suffered from sinus allergies. He was receiving regular allergy shots and medications, but had very little relief from the agonizing condition,” Weeks said. “The next time the mother came for honey, I was told he was no longer taking shots or medication and he was doing fine.”
While not all doctors agree about the healing properties of honey, Weeks says it has been proven again and again.
“Local/raw honey builds the immune system. Science can produce volumes explaining why eating honey should not be beneficial to allergies and asthma, but in the end must state that for some unexplained reason it does help,” he said.
Raw honey, however, should not be given to infants less than 1 year old, he pointed out.
Other parts of the hive, including the pollen, propolis and royal jelly, also are believed to provide health benefits.
For more information, visit www.apitherapy.org.
For more about Weeks, go to
weeksworks.net, and for more on how to get involved
in local beekeeping classes and activities