Mr Beekeeper

The urban homestead’s resident beekeeper has nearly 30 years experience in raising bees so we are in good hand when there’s anything that needs to be done saving these vital insects. His love affair with these sweet creatures began in New Zealand where he started his own honey business selling honey in the town of Hokitika. The honey business continued in Florida where Jules Dervaes kept nearly 40 hives on our 10 acres selling honey and bee equipment.

Moving to Pasadena didn’t stop him from having bees and he continued to raise a few hives and sell honey to local folks in the area.    After a brief absence of a few years the bees are back on the urban homestead.. Not only are the vital on the urban homestead for food production –honey, but play crucial role in the pollination efforts.

With all the buzz about bees in the news these days, thought you would enjoy this flash from the past…..

If You’re Lucky, The Bees Just Keep Right On Buzzing

By Marilyn Kalfus
Tribune Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO, FLORIDA – The bees appeared to be waging the battle of Armageddon in his backyard as Jules Dervaes Jr. headed toward the 27 beehives behind his house.

The insects probably won’t attack, Dervaes assured a visitor, “if you don’t into their flight pattern.” His visitor developed a sudden slouch.

Dervaes, who began to keep bees four years ago, said he rarely wears protective gear, but he’s been stung so often, he added, “it’s like a nick after a while.

“Some old timers work their hives without their shirts,” Dervaes explained. “It’s just a matter of being at ease with them. If you’re gentle, the bees respond to that.”

But their battle call is any loud noise, such as a power lawn mower, Dervaes continued. And bee’s don’t like “being bumped or mishandled,” he added.

“Once I dropped a box, and they were all over me, ” he said “All over my neck, in my shoes.” That time, he said, he came away with two dozen stings.

But the stings, or “nicks,” can neither keep Dervaes nor his 4-year-old-daughter from the hives.

“She plays with them until she gets stung, ” Dervaes said of his daughter, who had been stung twice.

“You get use to that,” he added. “The first time they sting, it swells. But each succeeding time, it’s less and less.”

Still, sensitive spots are “below the fingernails, and places that are not tough,” he said. ” I don’t like them in my ears, lips or nose.”

But the worse thing to do when stung, Dervaes advised, is to wail about being stung.

The commotion will bring on additional bees.

“If you get one sting,” he said, “your adrenalin pumps, and they are attracted to you.”

The bees zoomed over his head as Dervaes explained why he became a beekeeper four years ago, while he was living in New Zealand.

“I started on a little farm,” he said, “where there wasn’t too much land. I thought of it as a way not to have land but be a farmer, too.”

After purchasing several hives, he said, “people call you up and say there’s a swarm over here, or swarm over there. So you run around trying to capture them.”

When Dervaes came back to the States, he had to start from scratch, but he now has approximately 500,000 bees, he said. They’re currently on their winter vacation, he added. At the beginning of March, Dervaes explained, the bees fly three to four miles from the hives for nectar on citrus trees. In the summer months, they head for the palmetto and wildflowers.

When the bees return, Dervaes said, he robs the hives. “Rob” is the beekeeper’s buzzword for extracting the honey.

“But you always leave some for them,” he said, because they feast on the honey during the winter months.

“If you are greedy, you’ll kill the hive,” he said.

Dervaes then bottles the honey and sells it to different stores and wholesale packers.

“I get a thrill out of packaging my own, to see what it looks like, ” he said, as he displayed a row of bear shaped bottles in a small factory beside his house. “But I haven’t made up a fancy brand name.”

Dervaes said he enjoys keeping the bees as much as collecting the honey.

“They just make a roar over here, buzzing overhead to get that stuff, ” he said. “It’s a happy sound.”

– San Antonio, Florida Tribune (1978)

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  1. Mia says:

    It could be a picture of Justin in that photo. I suppose we know what Justin will look like when he gets a bit older.