Beekeeping is one of those hobbies where quick, easy, and cheap solutions don’t really exist and eventually turn more people away than draw people in. Some consumers enter the hobby by purchasing a package of bees and then a single incomplete hive or inexpensive “nuke”, a smaller 5 frame starter hive, to break into the hobby in a cost effective way to see if they like it. These temporary housings are just that, temporary, and are meant for a short time housing unit. They are not intended for permanent housing.
Most people who watch The National Geographic, Discovery and The Learning Channels already know that there is a VERY serious problem nationally with the depletion of the bee population due to pollution, disease, greenhouse gases, climate changes, and other parasites. During the past 20 years, tracheal and varroa mites have become major bee pests that seriously threaten the industry in the United States. Mites have killed more than 90% of wild honeybees and 60% of commercial bees in the U.S. and small hive beetles are also becoming a serious problem that beekeepers have to contend with. The result here is that beekeeping has become enough of a challenge that many people considering the hobby steer away from it because of them.
The Eco Bee Mobile
Many of our clients were pleasantly surprised this summer when we pulled up to their homes and businesses in a new (for us) vehicle we acquired for our business.
We’ve gotten many positive comments about it and also ones that congratulated us in picking a vehicle as downright weird as our business idea of bringing fully stocked custom beehives to residential homeowners.
After all, the choice of a 24-year old VW Vanagon is weird and it’s probably one of the only Vanagons being used for a business in the country.
So, are we trying to be different or was there a reason?
We spent a lot of time agonizing over what type of vehicle would be best suited for our business needs. One primary requirement was that we be able to transport hives, especially of the fragile Top Bar variety, safely and in a very gentle manner. And, because hives can get VERY heavy, we needed something with a low loading platform and very wide sliding door. An open pick up would have lost all the bees we miss that tend to hang onto the sides of a hive during transport. We also knew that we wanted to be able to do mobile honey extraction for our clients so we needed something with good working space and the ability to add an extra battery and power inverter for the extractor. We also require comfort, decent fuel economy, and something small enough to move around in the city.
Since Larry has been in the automotive industry for the past nine years he was scouring dealer auctions for months looking for the right vehicle. We considered everything from old ambulances, enclosed trailers, cargo vans, Subaru Wagons, to Ford Transit Connects. You might have seen us earlier in the year delivering hives in an elderly Mercedes Diesel wagon. We considered everything!
While we’d owned two vintage VW Westfalia Camper vans in the past, we didn’t think of them until an old VW buddy of Larry’s recommended considering them as an option. The non-pop top Weekender package gives us the open floor space we need to carry hives. They’re already set up for dual batteries and adding a power inverter was a snap. There’s plenty of space in the rear to carry tools, gear, jugs of feed, and all the other things we need on inspections. There’s even a fold down table on one wall to use as working space for paperwork.
Our good friend was able to find us a beautiful rare 1989 White Star edition with an automatic (for Karen), cold AC (for the bees in summer) that had been owned by a mechanic in the rural Maryland eastern shore area for the past 12 years. So far it’s worked out perfectly and the bees, the public, and we seem to love it!
We consider it a work in progress and we’re trying hard to get it professionally “wrapped” in advertising livery this autumn. Presently we’re using the smaller magnetic signage we had last year and we’ve found that those are still more than enough to get us approached by lots of interested individuals commenting on both our business and how odd it is to see one of these vehicles still on the road. Strangely enough it is D.C. United’s Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles fan club members that always come sniffing around for honey samples when they see it parked at R.F.K. for the pre-game lot parties at home games! Future plans are also in the works to convert it over to a more eco-friendly Diesel engine to double the fuel economy and make it run forever!
As soon as it gets it’s advertising face lift we’ll post more photos of it.
We’re in an odd sort of eccentric business. Suffice it to say, we should be driving around in a vehicle just as odd. It is most likely the only one in the country set up to do mobile honey extraction. And, needless to say, we’re as proud of the Bee Mobile as we are of the work we’re doing towards bringing bees back to the DC Metropolitan Area!