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  • Writer's pictureNona Spillers

You Keep Bees?

Updated: May 11, 2020

I never imagined answering yes to that question. There are plenty of things I do, like lead two nonprofit organizations, that I am not terribly qualified for. I'm just one of those people who, by diving in head first, figures things out.

I am, however, a FOODIE! I have worked in the food industry - specifically, the grocery store - all my life. I love to eat food, talk about food, help others enjoy meals, grow food and cook food. It turns out...without HONEY BEES, one third of the food I love so much would not be available. As a marketing leader at Whole Foods Market, I learned the importance of bees to our food system. After a school called our team at Whole Kids Foundation (one of the two nonprofits I mentioned) and asked if they could spend our garden grant check on a bee hive...well, my fate was sealed.

I met beekeepers for the first time in my life. I felt their passion and experienced their deep knowledge. Beekeepers are hands-down one of the most generous communities I have met. I learned all I could, visited schools that were keeping bees with kids -- and saw their faces when they dipped a finger into honey filled comb and made the connection for the first time - that's where honey comes from! Adults did the same thing.

About the same time, my husband John was growing a bit restless with the results he was getting from what seemed like ENDLESS work he was doing to help conserve wildlife on the property that is today Spillers Bee Ranch. We were cutting down invasive Yaupon trees and piling them high to make habituate for native songbirds. Posting bird houses to provide habitat -- all we ever succeeded in hosting were hornets and spiders. And hauling water to supplement the sparse rainfall collected for the turkeys, deer, raccoons and an occasional fox.

I mentioned one day that I'd met a beekeeper in the county who could put bees on our property. I don't remember John saying anything...but I think that was a spark. Little did I know -- that when John was little his granddad kept bees. He had really fond memories. And John can literally do anything he puts his mind to! Without me truly realizing it, he began binging everything he could find on the internet about bee keeping. He'd share a nugget with me here and there...but I didn't really snap to the fact that he was getting SERIOUS.

I remember the excitement of the day we went to pick up our first nuc (nucleus hive)! We drove out to the hill country and pulled into a yard with more bee hives than I'd ever seen in my life. Our son, who is a curious soul, went with us.

I was the epitome of "knows enough to be dangerous". Through our work educating people about honey bee behavior -- I knew that honey bees are not aggressive. I hadn't thought about what it would mean to walk into a yard with millions of honey bees at work.

I learned my first quick lesson - I do not like honey bees in my hair! I couldn't figure out why the bees were so attracted to me. Every product I use -- rosemary mint shampoo, citrus face cream, eucalyptus hand lotion -- smells like a flower. And when you smell like a flower - the bees are going to check to see if you really are one! I got my first sting that day. And I was undaunted. We did invest in gear - a veil, jacket and gloves. But I was hooked.

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