Janet Andrews has a natural way about her. Perhaps this is why she decided to keep and learn about the bees dwelling in her roof that welcomed her to Orange Park Acres over a decade ago. She thought they’d be a natural fit with plans for her backyard garden. Today, Janet leads garden and bee workshops for girl scouts and other groups interested in keeping these hard working, but sensitive pollinators that today, are on the verge of extinction due to a variety of environmental impacts, including chemical sprays that can wipe out entire colonies in minutes.
Backyard Bees recently joined Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market, which Janet says is the most natural fit, and we couldn’t agree more. You can learn a lot about bees and bee products at the market from Nikki, soon to be a Chapman University graduate with a degree in Environmental Science, who used to be terrified of bees until she interned with Janet. Processing and producing honey, beeswax, lip balms, lotions, and candles requires some special equipment and many steps before it arrives to the farmers market.
Backyard Bees conducts chemical-free rescue and relocation of hives to backyard and rooftop hosts around Orange County. Under Janet’s direction, three beekeepers, some family members and volunteers support about 100 hives of wild bees that collectively produce 5-6 thousand pounds of pure honey a year. Hosts retain 10% of the honey produced in exchange for hosting the hives.
The proliferation of Janet’s bee operation may be attributed to her selectivity in choosing spaces that give these bees access to a variety of natural pollen and food, ample space, quiet, and protection from interference. Worlds away from commercial production practices, Janet never feeds her bees or buys queens to start new hives, and she’s never had issues with colony collapse.
Backyard Bees makes slim profits, but reaps satisfaction in creating safe spaces for bees, crafting new products, and expanding community through education. Janet’s garden is currently growing cotton for her granddaughter to hand spin into yarn. She’s also honing her woodworking skills so she can make her own bee boxes and displays. Make sure to stop by and welcome Backyard Bee locals to the farmer’s market!