For all the reasons below (which we HIGHLY recommend you read), currently we're able to take on new clients in Washington, DC, Fairfax County, VA (and all the cities and towns), Arlington County, VA, Lorton and Woodbridge, VA (close to 95), southern and central Montgomery County, MD (270 & 495), and western P.G. County, MD (closest to the 495 beltway).
O.K. Now Why?
Because what Eco Honeybees does is a very new concept, many people don't understand everything that goes on in a business such as this in regards to what bees need, logistics, and what's humanly possible. After all, you're thinking about hiring us so you DON'T have to become experts, right? But prospective clients HAVE to understand a bit of what we do to appreciate it's complexities. And knowing a bit about these complexities also confirms to you why you're entrusting us with your business. Because what you read here is what we've learned from years of experience inspecting literally thousands of hives all over the area. Since nobody else does this, you won't hear any of this anywhere else!
We'll start with something you probably already know. Bees are social, living creatures that we love very much. Each hive is different and each Queen has her own personality and way of doing things. Given this, they are a very different type of "product" for a business to be selling. Especially when clients are expecting that business to care for their bees after the sale throughout the season.
Following this, you can imagine we put a lot of effort into creating hives and have a mental investment in their well being. Yes, we sell beehives. And the hives do belong to clients completely. But, please understand, deep down, we still consider them to be "our" bees and we want them to flourish. They aren't just "products" to us. Humans have to partner with bees and treat them as equals if we're going to improve the world together. They aren't just insects. They are the children of the planet. Fair enough? Now's the time to say; "Yeah, but we're eccentric in a GOOD way!"
One rule we established for ourselves early on in this business: We're committed to providing only strong bee colonies to our clients and, as often as possible, this will be a colony that has already survived the previous winter. A colony that has already survived a local winter has a very good chance of continuing to do so. Fully 70% of the hives started by local beekeepers do NOT survive their first winter. Since we're not hobbyists here, we can't stand for that. And even if the colony we provide you hasn't gone through a winter yet, you can bet you're getting a Queen whose mother and Grandmother did. And (unlike us) Queens impart their genetic survival knowledge on to daughters. So we're starting with better bees right off the bat. Call us lazy, but it's a lot less work if you're providing clients with better, more intelligent bees that already are survivors. It means we have to replace a lot fewer colonies.
Now that you know all this, you have to understand that, each year, we're limited in how many colonies we have to sell each season. If we run out of bees, it's not as simple as picking up a phone and ordering more. In our breeding program, we start our hives each summer and autumn. We'll start a lot of them. Sometimes as many as 150. Even though we're very experienced, the bee crisis still effects everyone. And not all the hives we start will survive the winter into spring. And, since no one can predict the weather with any degree of accuracy anymore, we never know year to year how much "product" we'll have available each Spring. We make predictions, plans, preparations and then cross our fingers that Mother Earth will reward us. Once Spring has sprung, we'll get an early assessment of what's survived and go to work helping those hives recover and grow so we can relocate them to new homes as early as possible. And, of course, we have to keep 1/2 of them to maintain our breeding program so we have hives to split up when creating those new colonies (remember?).
When taking on new clients we realize that we're making certain commitments to them as well as the bee colonies we worked so hard to create and nurture. We're based out of our home on the Tyson's side of Falls Church. If a client has an emergency, most often a swarm, and it's going to take us over an hour to each them, or more during rush hour, then we feel that we're not going to be able to commit to servicing that client in a way that they'd expect. (Humor warning) If your bees go crazy and small children are being carried off by them in numbers, you're gonna expect us to be there instantly (so will we because that'd be a sight!).
Another factor that governs this limitation is pure logistics. We will never get rich doing this. Additionally, Karen and I both have some physical issues while not being young and full of energy anymore. While we have a lot of clients in the area and the ONLY reason we've NEVER raised our service rate since 2011 is because we run service "loops" where we try to service as many hives as possible during one day's loop. This allows us to service maybe ten hives while driving only 20 miles. Additionally we also have many clients with multiple hives. Some as many as eight! So, being able to maximize our efforts helps both us and helps us to keep prices down. In our first year we tried accepting clients in Loudon County out past Leesburg. While we found we weren't able to respond quickly to emergencies, we also found that we were driving as much as 200 miles per day to service only 4 hives and that this was not sustainable.
Nothing is ever absolute. If you're a commercial entity such as a country club or golf course and have need of multiple hives, give us a call. If you're in a neighborhood or community and know that multiple hives are needed at multiple homes, give us a call. In situations such as these it might be logistically possible for us to accommodate you. Though we still will have real concerns about being able to support you during an emergency (picture those children).
Our future plans are to expand further outward in the area. Ultimately this depends on how many hives we're able to create (remember?) and also being able to hire on some help that we can train to be as passionate as we already are. As we're able to grow, so will our service area.