Our story begins with a boy growing up on a farm in Kansas. That boy, our beekeeper (D. J. Haverkamp), had a hackberry tree in the yard of his boyhood home. In that tree was a wild (feral) colony of honey bees. The colony remained there for many years and was always a source of both fascination and fear. That's where our interest in honey bees began.
D. J. moved to New York in the late 1980's to work for the Marriott Hotels. In the mid 90', he took a position working as an estate manager at an estate property in Bedford, NY. One of the neighbors to the estate was an elderly Norwegian couple who liked to play croquet and drink gin and tonics in their back yard on summer evenings.
After work, D. J. would hop the fence and listen to tales of Norway and cross country skiing in Bedford on wooden skis. His Norwegian friend had three bee hives set up in his backyard respberry garden. He offered to help D. J. get started beekeeping if he were interested.
One day, D. J. was flipping through the PennySaver (back in the days before Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay) and happened upon an ad for - 'Used Beekeeping Equipment for Sale'. He called the number listed and as it turned out an elderly gentleman who had been a beekeeper for 20 years was retiring and moving to Florida. He had a whole shed full of equipment that he wanted to find a home for. D. J. asked his employer if he could set up some bee hives on the estate and if he could store the equipment there. Suddenly he was a beekeeper in a big way with no knowledge, experience, or bees.
The following spring he order a package of bees from Mr. Ed Weiss, a long time beekeeper, author, and supplier of honey bees in Wilton, CT. Many local beekeepers from the 1970's to the 2000's got there start in beekeeping as a result of Ed's work. Not realizing some of the used equipment he had purchased was infected with a highly contagious disease called American Foulbrood, D. J. took some of the equipment to Mr. Weiss's apiary to ask his advice about reusing it only to have Mr. Weiss chase him off and tell him never to come back with contaminated equipment again.
Each year for the first five years D. J. tried to keep bees he made mistakes that caused the bees to die. This was still pre-internet days so there were no websites, Youtube videos, or podcasts to refer to - just books from the library. Not wanting to give up on the investment in equipment he had made, D. J. connected with a successful local beekeeper named David Blocher who offered to let him tag along while he was tending his bees. The lessons and counsel he shared were invaluable in getting to the point where D. J. bees would survive the winter.
This was also during the period when Varroa mites were infesting colonies in the United States for the first time. This new pest was not well understood and was causing hundreds of local colonies of honey bees to die. These infestations like contributed to the early colony losses as well.
At the end of 2005, D. J. was asked to help put together a beekeeping Christmas gift for Jen George Vongerichten and his wife. The falling spring Jean offered to pay D. J. to help him get set up and learn how to do beekeeping. Because of his intensely busy schedule he also offered to have D. J. to do his beekeeping for him for his first couple years. That triggered the idea that if Jean needed this service that there might be others who would be interested in it as well. That first summer with Mr. Vongerichten, D. J. was working out the details of how the hive service might work. Here's how it work's today.
Hive Maintenance Service
It was the following fall (Fall 2006) that Colony Collapse Disorder first hit the news in a big way. Several commercial beekeepers began to sound the alarm that they were seeing 1000's of their colonies suddenly collapse and die for no explainable resaon. (to be continued)