Honey bees are some of the best pollinators on the planet, making it possible for us to grow nearly a third of the food we eat. The Coastal bee expert is Matthew Teichman, floor supervisor at the Woodburn, Oregon store. He knows his stuff, and is always eager to share his passion and insights with others. We chatted with him about his full-time hobby and what he suggests for folks interested in keeping their own bees.
How Honey is Made
Bees are wired to protect their queen and her offspring while producing honey for the cold, winter months. To make that honey, bees collect nectar from blossoms using their tongues and store that nectar in their honey stomach.
As they move from flower to flower, they cross-pollinate our gardens and crops.
When they’re full, they fly back to the hive and share what is in their stomach with other bees. Those bee stomachs turn the nectar into honey, which is stored in honeycomb cells and fan dried with bee wings. It might not sound appetizing, but it’s hard to deny that honey is one of the most delicious foods on the planet. For beekeepers like Matthew, those buzzing friends have quickly become his favorite pastime and part-time enterprise.
“Beekeeping keeps you young,” Matthew said through a wide smile. “I got my start when a person collecting swarms gave me my first hive. Honey is a bonus, but really bees are simply interesting. I learn something new all the time.”
This father of three, grandfather of 10, and devoted husband ran greenhouses in Michigan and Montana in his youth, defended America’s freedom as an Army combat engineer just before Desert Storm, and spent a handful of years in the National Guard. While people thank him for his service, they’re always eager to ask him a few questions about keeping bees. He’s happy to oblige.
“There are some great online communities out there,” Matthew added. “You can ask anything and people will kindly answer, share some advice, and offer to help.”
Bee Connected in Your Area
You’ll find plenty of informative links, FAQs, as well as contact information about friendly beekeepers at the following:
In Oregon: Oregon State Beekeepers Association
In Washington: Puget Sound Beekeepers Association
Making Some Extra Money
Unless you’re maintaining hundreds of hives, beekeeping might not pay the bills, but it can bring in some extra cash.
“My friend took some of my bees to California to help pollinate the almond orchards,” Matthew said. “We get some good honey out of it and get paid.”
Matthew explains that beekeepers can also sell their honey and their extra hives.
“You want to work your hive and watch them carefully for signs of swarming,” he cautiously explained. “By splitting up your hives and giving them room to work, you prevent that swarming. When you start with just one hive, you can quickly end up with two, then four, then eight.”
Matthew always tells newcomers to wear the right gear and take home the right equipment.
“I always wear a veil over my head and face,” he states. “It’s a good idea to wear gloves and the right clothing too.”
For Matthew, the hive tool is essential. It’s like a little crowbar that makes it easy to maintain a hive. He also recommends bee boxes, frames, lids, a screen bottom for ventilation, a perch, and smoker to encourage bees to go deeper into the hive instead of buzzing around the beekeeper.
Coastal Tip: Check with your local city or county for bee regulations in your area. Some places restrict beekeeping to larger acreages instead of small subdivisions. Search for “apiary restrictions” and your city, state for regulations or necessary permits.
Even if you don’t have a hive, you can encourage bees in your backyard by using bee-friendly pesticides in your garden and on your lawn, planting pollen-rich flowers that are good sources of nectar and pollen, and creating water sources such as fountains and birdbaths.
Coastal Knows Beekeeping
Matthew has been a fixture at Coastal for just over 15 years. In that time, he’s helped countless locals start their own hives. Stop by your Northwest owned and operated Coastal where you’ll find answers to all of your beekeeping questions, gear to get the job done, as well as bee order forms to get your first set of bees (including a queen).