Inside our Hive...
At Beetanical, we feel beekeeping is about more than just “keeping bees.” It is a commitment to being caretakers, tending to the well-being and health of the honeybee, helping them to thrive.
Our involvement with bees began in 2004, as a simple favor to our neighbors who were moving and couldn’t take their two hives with them. We had both been mildly curious in the past and thought maybe someday we would consider getting a beehive or two. Then suddenly, here were two established hives needing a home and we thought, “Sure, why not? It looks like fun.”
Little did we know that by saying yes to a few bees, we were about to catch the bug!
We were fascinated, intrigued. We joined the local bee club and started going to the monthly meetings, notebook in hand, excited to talk bees with other people like us: the weirdos who want to spend all their free time with stinging insects! And, we started collecting books. Books on honey bee biology, behavior, queen-rearing, backyard beekeeping, nectar sources, uses for wax, recipe books, poetry and folklore, and any bee-themed fiction we could find. For example, Laurie R. King's awesome new Sherlock Holmes series, which begins with The Beekeeper's Apprentice!!
Our two hives became four that first summer, eight the next, then twenty… You can see where this is going…
In 2008, we had grown to 200 colonies and felt our day jobs were interfering with our true calling; we needed more time with these amazing creatures. So after seeking the wise counsel of seasoned beekeepers, we decided to make a shift. We made a plan to develop our sideline hobby business into full-time commercial beekeeping.
Since 2008, we have continued to grow and are now one of the largest apiaries in the southern Willamette Valley, pollinating a variety of local crops as well as California almonds, and supplying bulk honey to many different customers. And while our numbers have grown, we have stayed connected to our bees with enthusiasm. The vast majority of the fieldwork is done by us ourselves and a few trusted employees, who, over the years have often been our own family members.
Both of us have horticultural backgrounds and are inspired by the interconnected relationship of plants and insects both in agriculture and the ecology of the natural world. Our roots are decidedly botanical, but the bees had brought forth the blossoms.
Thus was “Beetanical” born.
If you have ever purchased our honey and seen our label, you will notice it is not the same as our business logo. We have done this on purpose and are not likely to change it. Why? Well, there’s a story there…
Frank Eugene Bates was born December 27, 1871 to Sutliff and Orilla Bates. He had three sisters, Anna, Etta and Alta, and a baby brother, Harley (my grandmother’s father). When Frank was just a baby, one of his sisters accidentally dropped him, which crippled him. Remember, in those days, medical help was rather limited, and so he grew to have a hunched back.
Even so, Frank was a good worker, helping out on his brother’s farm most of the year in Springdale, Oregon, and raising honey bees as well. My grandmother remembers the “bee house” located in the middle of the farm, which she learned to avoid after all the stings she had gotten there. I imagine this was his extraction facility, though likely just a small and simple shed. He kept the family in full supply of honey, and probably gave extra to the neighbors. His honey label is hand-painted and detailed in gilt, but who actually did it is still a mystery. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Frank himself.
Though he was destined never to marry, he was sweet on Ruth, the sister of his brother’s wife. But as things were, it was his fate to be the tag-along uncle. In the winters while farming and bees were at rest, he would accompany his sister, Alta, and her husband, the traveling preacher, to places like Canada and California. My grandmother can still clearly recall his beautiful singing voice (one might even say mellifluous!) as he sang the old hymns, and says he was very musical, a kind, sweet and gentle man.
Some spare labels were saved, passed down and passed along. My grandmother gave one to my mother once, who then tucked it away in her own baby book, which went back into storage to be forgotten.
Then one day in about 2006, as she was sorting through a bunch of old things, she came across the old Bates label again, tucked it into an envelope for me, and mailed it with a note saying, “See! It was in your blood all along and we never realized it! Maybe you could hang this in your bee house!”
But we went a step further and repurposed it for our own business. And now the original itself is framed and on the shelf in my office today.
Frank Eugene Bates
At the very bottom of a box of old family photos, and I mean the absolute last one, was this photo of Uncle Frank and his bees! Talking with my grandma, we figured it was taken between 1901 and 1911, while Frank was in his 30s. The family moved to Oregon when he was around 20, and they had to first build the house and get the farm going before the bees came along. Which she guessed took at least 10 years. It seems he had upwards of thirty hives, maybe even fifty. That definitely would have been enough to require selling his honey. Note his clothing: a simple net veil over a farm hat, not wearing any gloves, but he does seem to be wearing a nice vest! He has a smoker on the cleverly wheeled work table. Behind him is the little "bee house," a simple shed for extracting, which he may be preparing for at the moment as the hives are shorter and more uniform on the right side of the yard. And I believe there are some supers on the table, too.
What a treasure to find!!