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Beekeeper Interview Series: Part Two


Beekeeper Interview Series: Part Two

WE HONOR AND CELEBRATE BEEKEEPERS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY!

Learn more about these three special beekeepers and follow their beekeeping journey!


Just like the bees they take care of, beekeepers are vital in the pollination process and essential to the production of fruits, vegetables, and goods we eat every day! So, to celebrate and learn more about individuals who help bees help us, we have interviewed beekeepers from across the United States and included their Instagram handles (@...) so you can follow them in their beekeeping journey. By inquiring about their inspirations, strategies, and experiences beekeeping, we hope you’ll be buzzing about these un-bee-lievably awesome beekeepers and become inspired to create a hive of your own!


Chris Starkus of Oregon and Colorado

(@chrisstarkus)


Chris Starkus of Oregon and Colorado  (@chrisstarkus)

When did you begin beekeeping?

I began beekeeping in Portland, Oregon in 2014. 


What got you into beekeeping?

In Portland, Oregon, there was a local beekeeping company called Bee Local run by Damian Magista and Ryan LeBrun. At the time, I was working as a chef at the Nines Hotel with a desire to establish beehives on the hotel roof, so I called them for help.  Damian and Ryan sensed that my interest went beyond just hiring them to set up hives.  Week after week, they would come to check the hives, and week after week they would loop me into doing different tasks.  

Before I knew it, I was holding frames, identifying queens, and asking a lot of questions.  By the next spring, I was at the beekeeping store buying my own hives and nucs. That season I started with four hives and enrolled in a beekeeping apprenticeship through Oregon State University. So, I blame it all on Damian and Ryan.


How many hives do you have? 

I currently have four hives.


What are the best parts of beekeeping for you? 

The best parts of beekeeping for me are the smell of propolis on a warm day. Also, I am simply in love with watching the bees do their work, either on flowers or at the hive entrance. Bees are mesmerizing, and I never tire of watching them perform their magic.


What is your favorite beekeeping memory?

My favorite beekeeping memory is the first time I spotted the queen on my own. She was in one of my first hives and I saw her on a warm summer day. Ever since then, queen spotting is a fun game I play with myself when I‘m doing hive inspections. 


What are some of the challenges you face?

Overwintering is always a challenge here in Colorado. Each season gives me more experience and information, so I am better at setting the hive up for success. Still, each season still feels like a crapshoot. There are so many factors that change from season to season to make much feel truly stable.  


During the beekeeping season, there is a lot I can do to help and feel like I have a measure of control regarding the health and success of the hive. When the cold days of winter come, like this past week when we have weather dipping down into negative temperatures, I have to trust the bees and know that I have done everything I could to help them.  I’m basically sitting on my hands trying to imagine what’s going on in the hive. Fortunately, here in Colorado, these cold snaps last only a few days. Depending on the temperature, I may only be able to open the lid and simply see if they are still alive. Situations like create more questions to seek answers for. As a professional chef, I’m used to creating and following recipes. In beekeeping, there’s no single recipe for success. There are too many variables to just “set it and forget it.” I am constantly learning about beekeeping and listening to other beeks in order to gain new tools in my proverbial toolbox. It is a never-ending quest to create the perfect recipe to follow year over year.  But just like perfection in cooking, I’m not sure it exists.   


Chris Starkus of Oregon and Colorado  (@chrisstarkus)

Do you have any tips for new beekeepers?

The first thing I suggest to new beekeepers is to seek mentorship with a seasoned beekeeper in their area that subscribes to the same beekeeping philosophy you want to keep with. I always say that beekeeping is like religion; there are many ways to practice and be successful.  It just depends on what you subscribe to yourself. Once you find it, the advice and experiences shared can be invaluable to your beekeeping. Building a network and community of Beeks (Bee Geeks) will keep you informed and increase your knowledge of beekeeping.


What is one of your craziest beekeeping stories?

In 2017, I was a chef at one of two restaurants in a downtown hotel in Portland, Oregon. I built and ran the 16th story rooftop garden and apiary. Our second, sister restaurant on the rooftop had a view of the garden and apiary from their patio dining area. 


One beautiful fall evening, one of the hosts from the sister restaurant rushed into our kitchen.  It was about 7:30 pm, and I was in the middle of a busy service. She was breathless, telling me that a “crazy” guest had just pulled a knife on a bartender after ordering a drink.  


When the police arrived and tried to apprehend him, the guy jumped over a glass partition that separated guests from the garden and literally made a beeline toward the beehives.  Once he realized he was cornered, he started grabbing the hives and pushed them over toward the police officers.  He ended up tipping over two hives.  He grabbed bricks on top of the other two hives then jumped down to the 14th floor. The guy smashed a hotel room window with the bricks and attempted to jump through and escape capture. He was quickly caught as he entered the hotel room. 


Because of the staff’s quick response to inform me about the bees, I was able to get the line covered and run out to the roof.  Since it was a cool fall evening, the bees were spilled out into two clusters on the ground.  I was able to rebuild the hives, collect both clusters and place them safely back into each hive. I don’t think I’ll forget that story anytime soon.


Do you practice a unique beekeeping method that might be different than the majority of other beekeepers? If so, what is it? 

I practice what I call “Whole Hive” beekeeping. I harvest all my burr comb and put it into my solar wax melter to be made into lip balm, candles, or beeswax wraps. I use propolis traps to make propolis tinctures. I collect bee pollen to make bee pollen cocktail bitters that I hope to have for sale later this year. I collect two types of honey, extracted and comb. I only take what I know the bees can give.  As most experienced beekeepers know, not every year yields. 


Anything else you want to add about your experiences?

I recently started Waggle Hive Co. with my partner Diana. The world of beekeeping is vast and filled with a lot of uninformed and misleading information. Because of this, it is difficult to teach people to understand why local honey and hive products are so much more expensive than what you see in mainstream stores. 

Please support local beekeepers by buying their raw honey. All the healing properties of honey that you hear and read about are in their honey.  You can keep up with my beekeeping on Instagram @wagglehiveco and @chrisstarkus.  


If you want to read more about Chris’ crazy story, click here.


Chris Starkus of Oregon and Colorado  (@chrisstarkus)

Tucka Bee of Florida

(@tucka.bee)

Tucka Bee of Florida  (@tucka.bee)

When did you begin beekeeping?

I got into bees in May of 2013, so that makes about 8 years. 


What got you into beekeeping?

I was in agriculture for about ten years before I had the chance to stand in a swarm of bees. They flew away with my heart and it all unfolded from there. 


How many hives do you have? 

I run about 250 colonies in Florida and New York.


What are the best parts of beekeeping for you?

Swarms are my all-time favorite part of beekeeping. I love the wildness and the flight. The smell of lemongrass. The way their tiny faces turn to seek the queen. My favorite beekeeping memory is surely every swarm I've ever seen. 


What are some of the challenges you face?

I find it difficult to manage time and people. There are so many text messages involved in running a bee operation. It's insane. 


Do you have any tips for new beekeepers?

My biggest tip for new beekeepers is to get hive time. People learn about bees by spending time close to open beehives. If you have 1-20 hives or even more, you can only progress so fast because the hives can only be opened so often. Find a local beekeeper you vibe with and volunteer your time as often as possible. You will learn so much faster, and you will have critical connections and social resources when you need them down the road. 


What is one of your craziest beekeeping stories?

My craziest beekeeping stories? Oh geez. Could be any live removal I've ever done. Or the long-distance driving in a buzzing van. What's crazy to me now is different than it is for other people. I've come to think of this wild life as normal, and I like it that way.


Do you practice a unique beekeeping method that might be different than the majority of other beekeepers? If so, what is it?

I keep bees in Comfort Hives. Check out Anarchy Apiaries for more info on this inspired

design. 

Anything else you want to add about your experiences?

Get stung in all the places you are most afraid of. As long as you aren't allergic, the fear is worse than the pain. And once it has happened, you know what to expect and can plan accordingly. 

Tucka Bee of Florida  (@tucka.bee)

Lyndsey Pool of Leesburg, VA

(@the_apiary_artist) 


Lyndsey Pool of Leesburg, VA  (@the_apiary_artist)

When did you begin beekeeping?

I have always been very interested in keeping my own honeybees as well as native bee habitats on my property for many years. I apprenticed with a veteran beekeeping family for a number of years and took classes with my local beekeeping association as well as online extension classes. In 2016 I began keeping bees on my own property. 


What got you into beekeeping?

My love of gardening, insects, nature, and art collectively inspired me to pursue keeping honeybee hives. 


How many hives do you have? 

I currently have 14 full colonies and 6 nucleus colonies. 


What are the best parts of beekeeping for you? 

Beekeeping is my quiet zen. It's where I go to get lost in the gentle hums of my hives and calm my mind from the chaos of a busy day. I spend a lot of time in my apiary, sometimes just to sit and watch. Sometimes with my camera in hand to catch images of them busily buzzing to and fro.


Lyndsey Pool of Leesburg, VA  (@the_apiary_artist)

What is your favorite beekeeping memory?

I have fond memories of watching my son learn about varroa mites and helping one of our veteran beekeepers and mentors hunt for mites! 

Being able to spend time in the apiary alongside my son and watching him grow in confidence as he works his own hives has been a magical experience. 


What are some of the challenges you face?

Loss of habitat and native plants due to the continued development of the county I live in currently. The rate at which we lose natural untouched land and old farming estates to commercial and neighborhood real estate is mind-blowing. In the last few years we’ve seen an uptick in the use of chemicals as well, be it pesticides, herbicides, etc within the agricultural and neighborhood communities.

Covid-19 was a unique challenge but it did give me a lot of time to spend in my studio, which is my favorite place to be next to my apiary. I have some exciting projects coming up that I can’t wait to dive into! 


Do you have any tips for new beekeepers?

Learn learn learn. Never stop learning. Reach out to your local beekeeping associations, take classes with them. Find mentors and instructions and never ever be ashamed of asking too many questions or asking for help!


What is one of your craziest beekeeping stories?

My craziest beekeeping story was when I convinced my mother to come with me to pick up some nucleus colonies. Naturally, there were a handful of bees loose in the car and my insect-fearing mom was not pleased, at all, but I laughed historically the whole way home.


Do you practice a unique beekeeping method that might be different than the majority of other beekeepers? If so, what is it? 

I consider myself an ethical sustainable beekeeper. I manage my colonies as naturally as I can but I do take mites seriously and treat accordingly. I do not consider myself a honey producer and as such, I always leave more than I take. I make sure my colonies have at least 60-80lbs of honey going into winter. I try not to feed but will supplement weak colonies with sugar and fondant when necessary. 


Anything else you want to add about your experiences?

The world of beekeeping is always a learning experience. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been at it, there is always something new and exciting to learn. Honey bees are definitely a gateway to all things pollinators, insects, gardening and so much more! Be open to all of it and let your passions take you where they may! The bees will lead and you will follow! 


Lyndsey Pool of Leesburg, VA  (@the_apiary_artist)
Lyndsey Pool of Leesburg, VA (@the_apiary_artist)


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Written by Abby Radunz and interviewees

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