Pastimes of Statisticians: What Do Statisticians Like to Do When They Are Not Being Statisticians?
We all know statisticians are often considered a little cerebral and somewhat introverted. We tend to be the ones stating facts and figures to other guests at dinner parties. This became painfully apparent to me when, during my 50th birthday party, friends gently and humorously reminded me that I often start sentences with “well, actually,” followed by some obscure statistic I came across and managed to retain. But I knew, deep down, I was more than a retainer for facts and figures. I enjoy much beyond statistics. So, I wondered, what do other statisticians like to do for fun?
I decided to post this question on the ASA Statistical Consulting Section forum. The response was overwhelming! Apparently, many statisticians have been waiting for just this question to be posed to them. I quickly realized our profession includes as many diverse leisure time interests as any other profession … perhaps even more. But what I also discovered is that we want to let others know about these pastimes. So, with the help of ASA Communications Manager Megan Murphy, we are launching this new series: Pastimes of Statisticians. I am honored to take the first turn. I hope you enjoy it!
Who are you, and what is your statistics position?
My name is Susan Spruill and I am an independent statistical consultant doing business as Applied Statistics and Consulting.
Tell us about what you like to do for fun when you are not being a statistician.
I am a beekeeper. I started keeping honeybees (Apis mellifera) about nine years ago. I had moved to a small farm in western North Carolina and was interested in organic farming and thought honey bees might be a nice addition. My neighbor had kept bees until the 1980s, when a Varroa mite infestation killed all her hives. She gave me her equipment: hive boxes, tools, and veil. All I needed were the bees.
I purchased three nucleuses (small starter hives), bought a book (Beekeeping for Dummies), and joined the local beekeeping association. The learning curve was steep.
For the next three years, I killed every bee hive I started. Then, one of the hives survived the winter and all the education started to click. Hives were growing and producing new bees and honey. I was hooked! Now I manage a small apiary of five to eight hives and I’m the secretary of our local beekeeper’s association.
What drew you to this hobby, and what keeps you interested?
Being a statistician often means being indoors and at a desk for many hours a day, so I am drawn to things that get me outside. I like gardening, and I have always been fascinated by insects, especially beneficial insects. Honeybees are essential pollinator insects, so beekeeping seemed a logical step.
What I like most about keeping bees is their resourcefulness. Honeybees have a very strict colony structure that is infinitely fascinating. Understanding their natural structure and working with them to optimize it is what it means to be a beekeeper. And then there’s the data! Here are some fun facts:
- One hive houses about 50,000 bees
- One bee will visit 50 to 100 flowers each trip from the hive
- Twelve bees will make about 1 teaspoon of honey in their lifetime
- More than 2 million flowers will be pollinated in the making of 1 pound of honey
- Bees are directly responsible for one-third of our food supply