If you’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. Whether a new or established beekeeper, she’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 … 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. They’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 … 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, I’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 they’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 aren’t familiar and are uncomfortable keeping bees. I’m all about being a good ambassador … 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 … so, they don’t want to sting; they don’t want to die.
Do you get stung very much while beekeeping?
Some beekeepers use their protective gear and some beekeepers don’t. Usually I use my veil and my gloves and I rarely get stung. Most of the time if I have gotten stung it’s my fault.
Why is a healthy honeybee population so important?
We’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 can’t talk about local food and not talk about local pollinators.
What’s your ultimate goal with Fleur-de-bee?
Whether it’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 can’t do that, it has to be a community … Sadly, movies that we’ve seen and news reports, they sensationalize the dangers of honeybees, when that’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.