30% of our food supply is dependent on pollinators so it’s imperative that we keep our bee population happy and healthy. Two people doing just that are beekeepers Alyssa and Trent of Haws Bees.
This National Honey Bee Day, we sat down with Alyssa to talk about the importance of bees, saving hives and the best way to treat a sting..
What inspired you to become a beekeeper?
I didn’t ever think I would be a beekeeper. It never really crossed my mind- I was just fascinated by bees and well, it just kinda happened. I went down to the desert with a friend to be set up on a blind date with a guy who was a beekeeper. We stopped to camp on the way down and I met another guy. He asked me out and I mentioned I was on the way to see another guy who was a beekeeper. I can still remember him saying “Are you serious?! You think that’s cool?…I’m a beekeeper too!” So I’m pretty sure it was my destiny.
When you first learned about beekeeping did you teach yourself or have you had mentors?
My main mentor was my husband (Yup I married that beekeeper). We had to teach ourselves a lot the first year, it was a lot of trial and error. However, the beekeeping community is unlike any other industry I have worked in. We have always found a sense of community and camaraderie. So many beekeepers from fellow local beekeepers to commercial beekeepers are constantly there to root for us and give advice.
What is the toughest part about becoming a beekeeper?
I would say for me, being specifically focused on bee rescues, the hardest thing is when we can’t save a hive. The very first time it happened was extremely hard for me. It was a hive up under the beams of an elaborate awning someone was building and the bees were extremely aggressive. We had to cut into the awning to access them and the neighbors had horses. It was just a mess. We had to euthanize the bees and I left telling my husband “People trust us to save the bees and I’ve just killed more bees than anyone ever will.” He reminded me of the good that we are able to do but that was definitely one of the toughest things that happened in the beginning.
How did you start your hive?
My husband had hives when we started dating. He started beekeeping in high school. So I guess you could say my first hives were my step-hives but I love them as my own.
What is the best way to treat a bee sting?
The answer to that is different for everyone since everyone has such a different response to bee stings. My favorite way to treat bee stings is a heat pen- which is just what it sounds like- it’s a pen that heats up and alleviates the pain of stings.
What is the proper thing to do when a bee is near you and you don’t have any protective gear?
I would say if they’re not near you because you just stepped into their hive they understand they’re in someone else’s territory and they will not be hostile unless provoked. It can be hard not to swat at something that seems like a threat but if it lands on you a gentle scoop or swipe is a better way to avoid getting stung. If it doesn’t land on you just let it do it’s thing!
Do you have a favorite beekeeping story?
One story that sticks with me is a woman who had us come out and do a rescue for her while she was in the middle of an intense schedule of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. It really had an impression on me to see someone in such an all-consuming situation and still have concern for a world outside of that. That was pretty inspiring.
What is the common misconception about bees?
One common mistake is referring to worker bees as male. All worker bees are actually female.
Tell us about your Haws Bees business. What are some of the products you offer?
We sell raw honey, unfiltered wax and raw pollen, we also sell CBD products. All our products are centered around us as a family and the things we value.
Our packaging is something we are really proud of not just because we love the aesthetic. but because we use glass to store all our honey instead of plastic. We buy as much of our jars and labels not only in the USA but as local as we can. We are pretty proud of that and we love that others choose us because they appreciate that as well.
How does the weather/environment affect bees?
Bees need different care depending on where they live. We personally know more about making sure bees have water in the hot summer than for example winterizing a hive because we live in the desert. As far as wild bees, one of the best things you can do for them is to leave water out. You can get a bee water feeder much like a humming bird feeder online.
Are you letting your children get involved in the beekeeping business?
Yes! Brighty loves going to “check the bees”. She got her first sting a few weeks ago and I thought it was going to be a bigger deal than it was! She was totally fine and it didn’t phase her at all. Sage is only 2 months old but you can bet she’ll be out there as soon as she can too!
What’s one pro tip you have for someone who’s looking to become a beekeeper?
The best advice I can give is to talk to a beekeeper. The sense of community is strong and talking to a beekeeper at your local farmers market is where I would start. There are also a lot of good Instagram and Facebook groups where people answer questions. We hope to put out a class eventually teaching people about beekeeping and bee rescues because we did have to learn a lot on our own and we would love to pass that on. Right now we mainly share and answer questions on @hawsbeeshoney
Do you think people should fear bees? Why or why not?
I think people should have a healthy respect for bees. Fearing them in the right scenarios and not being reckless is important. Some of our friends share pictures and videos of them working with the bees without suits or gloves and although we sometimes do this we don’t want to promote the false message that all bees are safe to have this type of experience with.
Are you able to have a break from beekeeping? I.e. Vacationing
We take half the year off to let the bees sustain themselves and do their own thing. Although all hives will always produce in excess, the rescue hives especially need time before winter to grow and build up their honey supply. We enjoy traveling as a family in our time off.
How do you decompress these days?
These days with a newborn it’s a little hard to get me time but when I do I enjoy photography. That and studying health and wellness are my main ways to decompress. I also love cooking but Trent has been doing the majority of that lately since we have a full time breastfeeder 🙂
What’s your favorite way to use honey?
I am actually allergic to several types of sugar so we use honey in everything around the house. My favorite this time of the year is fresh Utah peaches with coconut cream and honey on top.
What’s next for you and Haws Bees?
We are launching a line of plant-based supplements this fall. It’s some things we use a lot and make ourselves that we know others will love. We are continuing with markets and have a few stores we may start supplying our CBD products in. Ya know, just continuing to live the dream.