Friday, April 29, 2016

Local First Friday: Eco Honeybees



Bees are essential to the food system. Aside from producing honey, they pollinate around one-third to two-thirds of important crops, according to various estimates, and the rapid decline of the bee population in recent years poses a serious threat to many berries, fruits, and vegetables. 

Nestled just outside DC in Falls Church, VA, Eco Honeybees serves homemakers and businesses interested in beekeeping in the metro area with hive installment and maintenance services.
The local business helps people who don’t necessarily know how to care for bees themselves, which takes time and has a steep learning curve.

“There’s a lot of people who want to do something about the bee crisis,” said Larry Marling, who co-founded Eco Honeybees (http://ecohoneybees.com/) with his wife, Karen, in 2011. “We essentially provide the expertise and the labor.”

The team plans how many hives they will sell each year in advance, assembling equipment and starting the hives over the winter (a delicate time for bees) to sell to customers in the spring and summer. 

Then, they install and inform their clients, the majority of whom are homeowners, according to Marling, about hive maintenance.

Customers can employ the business to inspect and monitor the hives, which Marling said is important to ensure the hives are adapting to their environments and to eliminate potential problems, including parasites and diseases, before they can become problems.

They would also receive advice and guidance to help their hives survive the next winter.
“We’re not dealing with beekeepers here,” said Marling about why his business strives to help and educate its customers. “I mean, a common question we get is ‘Why do bees create honey?’ They don’t understand that they create honey to survive in the winter.”

Generally, hives produce between 10 to 40 pounds of honey per year, according to the business’s website, but this changes based on the environment and other factors. 

Eco Honeybees uses its own breeding program to populate its hives, and it provides a choice between Langstroth hives, or more common, vertical hives, and Top Bar hives, which are horizontal and considered more organic because the bees fill them out with little guidance, according to Marling. 

For Langstroth hives, honey is taken using an extractor. Top Bar hives are more old-fashioned in that the liquid honey comes from crushed combs and is then strained.

“No hive is better than the other,” said Marling. “It’s just essentially, you know, ballroom dance versus tap – people have a preference.”

Marling said one challenging aspect of running Eco Honeybees is being ready to give customers immediate assistance and adapting care to various environments around the DC metro area.

“In this day and age when everybody is destroying the environment, we’re trying to improve it,” Marling said. “There is no handy manual of how to do things. There is nobody out there for advice. The mistakes we make are our own.”

Marling said the business is getting more commercial clients, including restaurants, schools, and country clubs, and it is constantly looking to expand.


About the Author 
Seema Vithlani is a junior multi-platform journalism major and French minor at the University of Maryland. This spring she is also an editorial intern for Washington Gardener Magazine.
"Local First Friday" is a weekly blog series profiling independent garden businesses in the greater Washington, DC, and Mid-Atlantic region. Washington Gardener Magazine believes strongly in supporting and sourcing from local businesses first!

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