Honey business turns out to bee environmental service, too
By Brian Todd
Date Modified: 04/25/2012 9:34 PM
ROCHESTER, Minn. -- New Year's Day of 2011, was a busy day for Andrew Pruett: He got married, started his honeymoon in Hawaii and decided to start a new business — as a beekeeper.
"We looked up beekeepers in Hawaii on our honeymoon," Pruett said. "It's been a passion ever since."
Like many crazy things guys do, Pruett's new business venture began because of his interest in a girl, now his wife, JoAnna. On their first date, the pair spent nearly five hours in a restaurant talking about honeybees. JoAnna had been the Wisconsin Honey Queen in the 1990s, and has kept her hand in the honey jar ever since.
Pruett, meanwhile, consulted with his father, who had experience in beekeeping.
"He started teaching me beekeeping so I could impress this girl I was dating," Pruett said.
But what began as a way to impress a lady has turned into so much more for both Andrew and JoAnna.
"It's local," Pruett said of his business, Honeymoon Honey. "And it's a wonderful way to give back to the community."
The company makes products based on honey and beeswax, such as cosmetics, lip balms and, well, honey. It also rents out its hives to area farmers who need pollinators in their fields and orchards.
In the field, the honeybees fly between two and seven miles from their hive, helping plants grow, germinate and bear fruit.
"Two-thirds of the food we eat can be directly related to honeybees," Pruett said.
Pruett said his business isn't just about profits — though earning money is nice — but also about stewardship of the environment. For example, when Honeymoon Honey takes its bees to an apple orchard, those bees aren't just pollinating apples. They help every flowering plant in the area grow.
"They always go to the strongest nectar source," he said.
Of course, with the struggles bees have had recently — from deadly mites to pesticides — bees need all the help they can get, especially in the cold climate of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota Bee Lab has worked with the Minnesota Hygenic Bees, a bee breed that "detects and removes damaging diseases and parasites from the hive, helping bees defend themselves naturally."
This hearty bee is one of several breeds maintained by Honeymoon Honey, which also has hives of Italian honeybees (the most common honeybee in the United States) and Russian honeybees.
The company had 15 hives during the summer, but to help the bees survive the cold this winter, he and his wife combined weaker hives. "We'll have 18 hives this summer."
Pruett said he plans to offer his bees — for a price — to local gardeners. After all, he said, having a hive on your property can boost your flowering veggies by as much as 30 percent.
"People don't understand the relationship we have with these insects," Pruett said. "Honeybees are the least likely to sting. They're the least likely to be aggressive."
Instead, these vital members of our ecosystem help grow our food, add beauty to the world and give us a sweet reward to boot.