Ever wondered what bee-ing a beekeeper entails? We got the inside scoop from a local keeper who works with over a dozen hives at Carriage House Farm named Brandon Reynolds (AKA B the Keeper) to see what it’s all about.
Cincinnati Refined: Tell us a little bit about your background. What led you to your interest in beekeeping?
Brandon Reynolds: Cincinnati is my home through and through. I spent most of my early years in College Hill and Bond Hill (we all know how much Cincinnatians LOVE their hills), attended St. X for high school, and studied Marketing & Sales at the University of Cincinnati. Despite being born with a sweet tooth, my interest in beekeeping—and all things honey—didn't peak until April 2017 after leaving my job in advertising.
At the time, honey bees were surging in popularity (due to increased awareness of dwindling bee populations). On a whim, I gave an old boss of mine, Richard Stewart (Carriage House Farm), a buzz to see if he'd be willing to teach me the art of beekeeping. Three years later, what originated as a hobby has morphed into "B the Keeper," or, my platform to combat pollinator decline across the region.
CR: What makes being a beekeeper fun?
BR: There is quite literally NEVER a dull moment when it comes to working with bees. One second you could be in Northside balancing on a ladder—with one foot—to *safely* guide a honey bee swarm from a tree (cue the circus music) while later that day you're busy extracting honey and brewing mead for future dinner parties.
Becoming a beekeeper is a one-way ticket to a wild life. The bees challenge us to think outside of ourselves—a realization that doesn't occur often enough—and guide us to focus, instead, on the interconnectedness of nature.
CR: What special skills does one need to have to be a successful beekeeper?
BR: Being a great listener is the secret sauce to enjoying life as a successful beekeeper. In my early days, I'd show up to the apiary fully suited and ready to rock and roll through as many hives as possible, only to find out the bees were jiving to an entirely different tune.
Over time, it's become strikingly apparent that it's best (for all parties involved) for me to show up to hives when I'm needed—as opposed to when I feel the need. Leaving your schedule at the door and opening your mind to what the bees have to share will save you countless hours (and stings) spent fumbling around.
CR: What have you learned about beekeeping that the layman may not know?
BR: Lesson #1: Bees have been beekeeping WAY longer than you have. [That’s] the biggest takeaway from my beekeeping journey thus far. My original understanding of being a beekeeper was that it was my duty to funnel all possible resources towards protecting bees from harm (cue overprotective parent vibes).
The fact of the matter is that bees know more about their world than I—or any other beekeeper—ever will. Living their lives is the bees' job, not mine. As beekeepers, it's our job to stand between the bee world and the human world, assisting when needed and accepting each colony for what they are.
CR: What is Carriage House Farm? Where are they located?
BR: Whether you're looking for freshly foraged fruits, vegetables, herbs, or honey, Carriage House Farm is the one-stop-shop for a local, farm-fresh taste of the Ohio Valley. It's located just 20-minutes outside of Cincinnati in North Bend. Make sure to stop by the on-farm market! Your taste buds will thank you for it.
CR: Because we’re all wondering, roughly how many times have you been stung doing your job? Does it get any easier to handle?
BR: In the beginning, I'd get stung around three to five times during a bad week. After three years of wooing, I'll get stung < 20 times per year if I play my cards right.
Believe me when I tell you, getting stung is the LEAST of your worries. After a while, you'll come to see stings as a keen reminder to slow your roll and pay closer attention to your work.
CR: What’s a bee fact many don't know?
BR: There are a ton of wild bee facts out there but this one takes the cake: A single pound of honey is estimated to be the product of over TWO MILLION flowers! What's even crazier is that each forager bee only produces around 1/12 teaspoon of said honey in her lifetime. Talk about a ton of trips!
Moral of the story: PLANT MORE FLOWERS!
CR: Are there any challenges to being a beekeeper during the current pandemic?
BR: I'd argue the COVID-19 pandemic was beneficial for bees as the global "pause" sparked by quarantine caused many people to reassess their environmental footprint. I've received more questions regarding "top bee-friendly plants?" and requests for beehive tours than ever before. My hope is for us to use this as a wakeup call and invest more resources into keeping the planet livable for all.
CR: If someone said, “I’d like to become a beekeeper,” what’s the best piece of advice you’d give them right off the bat?
BR: My biggest recommendation for potential beeks to consider before purchasing a beehive is to learn about the native perennial plants that feed pollinators in their area. The Civic Garden Center has a treasure trove of resources dedicated to this very subject—so start your research there!
Always remember that being a beekeeper transcends "keeping bees." It revolves around creating the best possible habitat for bees to live out their days.
- - -
You can shop B the Keeper’s honey at Carriage House Farm, located at 2872 Lawrenceburg Road, North Bend, Ohio (45052). You can also keep up with Brandon Reynolds and his hives on Instagram.