A Waterloo couple has found a pretty sweet way to help the environment – a way most people wouldn’t think of.
Pamela and Don Laidley are beekeepers and sell honey in their business, The Picky Bee.
“For quite a while, we were just interested in doing what we could for the environment,” Pamela said. “I thought it would be neat to have bees.”
Don started researching the possibility and found it fascinating as well.
They began keeping bees, but realized there weren’t many people in the area who were mentoring others and teaching about beekeeping.
“We wanted people to care about bees and the environment as much as we do,” Pamela said.
They found out about the St. Clair County Beekeepers Association, which has been around since 1917.
“We went to a meeting, and they hooked us up with a mentor,” Don said. “He helped us get started.”
Two hives turned into 50 hives many years later, and the Laidleys have found themselves busier than ever.
“At the end of this year, we’d love to have 75 or even 100,” Pamela said.
The Laidleys are looking for more people who are open to keeping bees on their property and willing to have Don and Pamela come check on and maintain the hives.
A healthy hive can hold up to 60,000 bees, so right now, the Laidleys are maintaining around 3 million bees between their yard and other peoples’ yards.
“The lifespan of a female bee is around three to four weeks,” Pamela said. “They’re constantly laying more eggs, but we have more or less depending on the season.”
Right now, the bee count is lower than usual but that will change with warmer weather.
In addition to selling honey, the Laidleys sell beekeeping equipment.
“We started selling the equipment our second year in because we found that there wasn’t a local supplier, so we started stocking inventory to get new beekeepers started,” Don said.
Pamela enjoys talking to school groups and civic organizations about beekeeping.
She has plans to talk to the summer reading program at Morrison-Talbott Library in June.
As far as honey production goes, it’s a slow and steady process.
“We’ve been selling out every year,” Don said. “We just ran out a couple of weeks ago, but it’ll be June before we have honey again. We’re hoping to close that gap soon.”
The interest and demand for the honey is there. The Laidleys attended “Taste of the Region” at Gibault and have also been showcasing products at Waterloo PumpkinFest each year.
“Taste of the Region went so well,” Pamela said. “We love turning people on to local products and explaining the benefits honey has for our health.”
They sell three different kinds of honey – all from the county, and all with different tastes.
“People are amazed how different the honey tastes from Waterloo to Maeystown,” Don said. “It all depends on the plants the bees have access to.”
Pamela said beekeeping is important because society doesn’t realize how crucial bees are to sustaining life on earth.
“If the bees die, we die,” she said.
Don said one-third of the average dinner plate is composed of products dependent on a pollinator of some sort.
“Honey bees make up a huge percentage of those pollinators,” Pamela said. “They essentially provide the food for our plates. People think of just fruits and vegetables, but it applies to meat, too.”
When one part of the cycle breaks down, the rest does, too, she said. It’s a domino effect.
“It’s important that people care,” she said. “We want to encourage others to do their part in helping the cycle.”
Their goals for the future are to establish more bee yards so they have a larger supply of honey to share with the community.
They would also love to have an actual storefront at some point in the future, since they are working out of their home right now.
“This is our second year of really building a customer base,” Don said. “As the customer base grows, we need honey to meet the need.”
They’re going to work on updating their Facebook page more often, so customers can keep on eye on www.facebook.com/thepickybee.
The Laidleys can also be reached by email at email@example.com.