If youâ€™re like most people, the sight of honeybees swarming in your backyard invokes a frenzy of fear rather than delight. But, Carrie VanWinkle, a third generation beekeeper, is working hard to dispel the myth that honeybees are harmful by teaching people the beauty and benefit of a beehive.
Through her business, Fleur-de-bee, VanWinkle provides a range of education and support in her passion, beekeeping.Â Whether aÂ new or established beekeeper, sheâ€™ll help you build and sustain your very own apiary with a list of resources and full and part-time services. She also specializes in sustainable approaches to beekeeping, while assisting beekeepers who live in an urban environment.
The Voice-Tribune caught up with VanWinkle to learn more about Fleur-de-bee and why the honeybee population is so vital to our community.
What sparked your interest in beekeeping?
My dad had some beehives when I was in middle school, so I think I just was comfortable around them. As I got older, it just really was an interest … I wanted to know more â€¦ and the timing seemed right about six years ago to give it a try. The bees are amazing, and it seemed like the more I learned the more I wanted to learn. Theyâ€™re just really interesting and beautiful and not to mention (they make) honey.
Why did you first start Fleur-de-bee?
I just started for myself, becoming a hobby bee keeper and as I immersed myself and became more experienced I realized other people were (beekeeping) and needed some help. I have a background in teaching â€¦ so it just kind of came naturally this passion for beekeeping and helping others learn more.
What all does your business offer?
The main things that I do are the group education and the one-on-one consultations. I do a lot of first consultations where I go out to where people are keeping the bees. I teach them where you get your bees, what type of hive you want to use, so (I help with) a lot of those first key decisions and connect them to resources for that. And, Iâ€™ll do follow up and come by as needed. But, my passion is more around teaching others (beekeeping) themselves and so I like to focus on that.
How is beekeeping in an urban area different from rural beekeeping?
Some of the uniqueness of the urban keeper is really the community that theyâ€™re in. Beekeepers used to keep hives out on farms where they were out of sight, out of mind for people. As we bring beehives to the city, some people arenâ€™t familiar and are uncomfortable keeping bees. Iâ€™m all about being a good ambassador â€¦ and help people understand not only bee behavior, but also how they can help support a healthy honeybee population.
Is there a misconception that bees can be dangerous?
There really is a difference (between the type of bee). All of them are important pollinators but there are, in general, some behavior differences. A wasp can be more aggressive; a honeybee will never be aggressive, it will only be defensive. It will only protect the hive if it feels like it needs to do that. Wasps have a smooth stinger and sting multiple times and with a honeybee they have a jagged stinger which means they can only sting once and then they die â€¦ so, they donâ€™t want to sting; they donâ€™t want to die.
Do you get stung very much while beekeeping?
Some beekeepers use their protective gear and some beekeepers donâ€™t. Usually I use my veil and my gloves and I rarely get stung. Most of the time if I have gotten stung itâ€™s my fault.
Why is a healthy honeybee population so important?
Weâ€™ve become really disconnected with where food comes from so if we reeducate ourself on where food comes from we are realizing the importance of pollination. We canâ€™t talk about local food and not talk about local pollinators.
Whatâ€™s your ultimate goal with Fleur-de-bee?
Whether itâ€™s an existing beekeeper a new beekeeper or just a general community member, my general goal is to support a healthy local honeybee population. And one person canâ€™t do that, it has to be a community … Sadly, movies that weâ€™ve seen and news reports, they sensationalize the dangers of honeybees, when thatâ€™s really more of a myth than a reality. I think the more people learn about honeybees, the more they understand the value and really can enjoy and start to love honeybees.
For more information on Fleur-de-bee, visit www.fleur-de-bee.com.