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Why is Ron buzzing about bees?

KIRO Radio's Ron Upshaw tends to one of his bee hives. The veteran broadcaster has become a beekeeping educator in his spare time. (Joshua Trujillo photo)
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When he's not on the air, KIRO Radio's Ron Upshaw loves to get buzzed. No, not that kind of buzzed. The co-host of the Ron and Don Show has gotten hooked on beekeeping.

It's the last thing Ron expected to get into when he got engaged while living a decidedly urban existence in a condo on Lake Union. But when his fiancee wanted to move out to the country, he traded in Seattle something altogether different.

"I was like 'I don't know about that, what do you do out there in the country?'"

He realized he needed a country hobby, and his brother suggested beekeeping.

"I don't know, it's kind of weird, I'm a little bit scared," Ron says he thought about the suggestion. "This is more protective gear than when I'm riding a motorcycle."

But he gave it a shot, taking a class with a master beekeeper nearby. And after getting over his initial fears, he was quickly hooked.

"It's the most researched and written about creature on the planet," he says.

Everything about bees fascinated him.

"One-third of everything you eat was pollinated by a bee," he says. "So every piece of citrus fruit, every apple that we sell in Washington state is pollinated by a bee. So when I started to hear about that I was like 'wow, that's incredible.'"

So he dove in, bought all the stuff, and set out to raise honey bees in his back yard. There were plenty of successes, along with a few failures. And he found there wasn't much help. He went looking for an instructional DVD, figuring there would be a ton of them on the market. But he couldn't find any that covered everything, since he knew nothing. And some friends said "why don't you do it?"

Ron and a friend produced their own instructional DVD. He hoped it would sell 100 copies - enough to cover the costs. Instead it's sold thousands. Ron says the secret was its simplicity and thoroughness.

"As dumb a question as you could think of, I tried to cover it in that DVD," he says.

Ron also found he likes to teach others. So he's grown into a bee educator, creating an online course and website with a complete, step-by-step guide to everything you'd want to know about beekeeping (and probably a lot more than you'd ever need to know.)

"I think doing the radio show everyday, where you have to explain complicated subjects and then have a take on it, that's what I do everyday. So it's translated really nicely to say here's a really complicated thing if you don't know what you are doing. Let me break it down in its component steps and show you."

So what's the allure?

"I think that there's a desire for people, especially if you work a day job or in a cubicle and you're typing all day, to do something that connects you back to nature."

Ron isn't looking to make a bunch of money off his beekeeping, but he does enjoy having such a rich and complex avocation, and ending up with something sweet to share with others.

"When I do a radio show, it's gone. The second I say it, it's gone. It's this very ethereal thing. So it's really cool to go these are my hives, they were here yesterday and they're going to be here tomorrow. I can come out and watch the bees go in and out. And at the end of the year hopefully I get some honey out of it and it's a tangible thing," he says.

Check out Ron talking bees with KING 5's New Day:

The Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

Listen to The Ron and Don Show every weekday at 3pm on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. Seattle's News, Seattle's Talk.

Ron and Don on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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