Local beekeeper Donald Dees has been attracting more honey being fly since his teenage years when he learned to drive by hauling bees for pollination down back roads in a ’57 Chevy.
Six years ago, he purchased his first box of bees that kickstarted Dees Bees Apiary. That box that has since flourished into five bee yards that span across Moore and surrounding counties.
Each spring, Donald suits up without fear of stingers and heads out to each of his farms to begin the honey harvest. Beekeeping for Donald, however, is a year-round commitment.
Surviving the Winter Months:
His farm on Roseland Road has 13 communities, but only about 10 are currently occupied. Warm weather is ideal for bees, and when the temps drop, it’s Donald’s job to help out.
About once a month, he cracks open a brick-like block of sugar that’s boiled down and hardened for the communities to feast on. Occasionally, he takes out some artificial pollen. And as for warmth? They’ll huddle together, football style, but he also adds a layer of insulation around the boxes.
“Bees reduce their population going into winter. By Dec. 21, there are no eggs going into the hive to hatch into babies. But after that winter solstice, the queen will lay a couple of eggs each day,” Donald says.
As the eggs are laid and continue to hatch, Donald adds another box to the community. By April and May when the honey flow starts, 60,000 to 80,000 bees will live in each community.
The frames are then put into a honey extraction machine, and the good stuff flows out like gold into a food-grade 5-gallon bucket. About 15 frames are used for one bucket, which can weigh anywhere from 57 to 60 pounds.
Nothing is added to Dees Bees honey, but the flavors differ depending on the nectar used to make it.
“It all depends on the flora,” Donald says. “The honey from communities out in Roseland has floral notes because of the blossom from the tulip poplar trees.”
The Roseland Road farm is just one of five for Dees Bees. Donald keeps a few communities at his home in Aberdeen, another near Camp McCall, one near Pinebluff and one close to Ellerbe, N.C.
Oh, and as for the whole stinging situation — Donald says he’s only been stung “a few hundred times” over the years.
“The most bees I’ve been stung by at once would be about 20,” he says. “Stings are inevitable for every beekeeper. There’s protective clothing, but at one point one might get caught under your jacket or fly into your glove.”
Dees Bees in the Community
Keeping track of tens of thousands of bees might be a full-time job, but it’s actually Donald’s second. His first 9 to 5 is at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital as a lab technician.
“Dees Bees isn’t really about making money,” Donald says. “It’s about giving back to the community that’s given so much to me putting a quality honey product on the market in Moore County.”
Dees Bees Apiary partners with Sandhills Farm to Table to distribute honey, but it can also be found at Sandhills Feed & Supply, Dunrovin Store, High Octane, Pinehurst Olive Oil and more than a dozen other retailers around town. You can also shop online via the Dees Bees website.
Interested in keeping up with the keeper of the bees? Check Dees Bees Apiary out on Facebook for updates about the spring extraction.