How did you get started in beekeeping?
I used to run my own landscape service—installation, maintenance. One of my customers was the pastor emeritus from our church—a good family friend. He had a really tiny yard that we maintained, but he had bees. And I said, ‘Instead of me charging you, Dr. Brewer, so much to do maintenance, why don’t you just show me what’s going on with the bees?” So every week or two we’d go by there, we talked about different stuff, and eventually, he caught a swarm of bees, which is when a hive actually divides itself and tries to relocate. Caught one, put them in a box, and told me to come pick them up. So that’s how I got my first beehive.
Why beekeeping, instead of other homesteading efforts?
It’s not like having chickens, where you have to have a coop. You just have a little small box, and it’s full of bees and they just sort of go do their thing, so it’s a lot more hands-off in my experience, at least when it’s just a couple of beehives. So it was partly because I’m lazy, don’t want to work really hard, but I was interested in working with my friend Dr. Brewer, and it just worked out. As soon as we got into it, I was totally fascinated by all the different nuances about the bees and what they did, and how they worked as a colony. I already appreciated the flowers and all that kind of stuff, but it was neat to see what they went to and what different blooms they liked. It got me more involved in understanding the cycle of how everything works together in nature. It’s just a fascinating thing. I wouldn’t say I’m good at it by any means, but I was able to stick with it and have a lot of success. It turned into a business. When I approached Garden Supply, they were not doing bees at all. We now have a full shop for beekeepers to come get all the materials that they need. We sell bees, we sell queens, we do everything.
You said that you previously had hives in downtown Apex. Is this something that people living in more urban parts of the Triangle can do?
Absolutely. That’s one of the key reasons I was able to approach Garden Supply and say, ‘This is a viable business option. We can help support the community, help support beekeepers, because there is that need.’ So absolutely. Within a quarter-mile of my house, and I’m almost in downtown Apex, I could probably point out five or six people that have beehives. They’re really all over.
Any final thoughts?
There are plenty of ways to support pollinators, support your environment. You’d be surprised, once you stop using some of the mosquito control companies, some of the harsher sprays for bugs around your house, what a diverse environment will emerge. That can worry people sometimes—they don’t want the bugs—but you can stay supportive of pollinators and bees in lots of different ways.
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