That is the question beekeeper Marty Hanks asked when he began Just Bee Apiary. His interest in honeybees started when he learned the bee population was declining in the United States.
Although Hanks works in construction full-time, he still manages his small bee farm on the side in Chapel Hill.
“The bee crisis intrigued my problem solving,” Hanks said.
“I used to be a mechanic years ago. When I was 13, I was rebuilding car engines, and it’s just something I do. I learn with my hands. I feel like I have that side of me. And so, in construction, I do the same thing. All I do all day long is solve people’s problems and figure stuff out. And so I got into bees doing that.”
Just Bee Apiary uses its honey flavors to promote the “buy local” movement. Each town has different types of wildlife, and honeybees only go far enough to pollinate flowers locally.
Hanks said he noticed each county would have a different taste.
“For us as humans, where we live, where we grow up, we see and touch and smell and hear everything around us through our human senses,” Hanks said.
“And that’s how we know where we live. But we don’t have a set marker for what our hometowns taste like except for honey. Honey is that. Honey is a collection of all the flowers in that area.”
Just Bee Apiary currently offers three flavors of honey: Orange County, Chatham County and Saxapahaw. Hanks sells his honey and other products at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and Southern Village.
At the market, it’s not only important to have local honey available, but to also help raise awareness about bees.
“I think there is also a big awareness piece to it,” said market manager Erin Jobe. “Bees are really important pollinators for our farmers as well. So being able to support our local bee population through beekeepers is really important as well.”
Just Bee Apiary spreads out farther than its bee farm in Chapel Hill — Just Bee has bee hives at locations like in a local neighborhood, Top of the Hill Distillery, Triangle Land Conservancy and other farms.
In less than a year, the Top of the Hill Distillery has gained nine hives on the top of the building.
“We are not using it (honey) yet in our spirits, but our goal is to use it in our spirits or at the restaurant,” said one of the distillery’s spirit guides, Esteban McMahan.
Hanks said he hopes other beekeepers will adopt his idea of having community honey flavors.
“I just want more beekeepers to take up beekeeping in their own community,” he said. “I want them to piggyback on my idea and say, create these hometown flavors in every state.”
Hanks said his main goal is to educate the community about bees. He said he wants people to understand that they are not the “killer bees” mainstream media portrays them to be.
“I think that they have been hidden for so long that people have just become so used to not having them around, or they’re worried about them and they’re scared,” Hanks said.
“It makes no sense when you look at how important they are to our daily life and how much they contribute to our food supply and everything.”
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