There are so many things that make The Towers at Mattie Rose special. As you walk down the paver streets, you immediately feel the cozy charm of the European style village. The market lights accentuate the architecture at night, neighbors wave to each other from their balconies and each unique garden has begun to blossom complementing the planters that line line the woonerf. There are so many beautiful things that catch your eye as you’re walking through—one thing you might miss the first time you’re here is the apiary. Tucked behind the gorgeous heritage tree that anchors the neighborhood is a tower within The Towers that houses over 60,000 bees.
Our resident bee keeper, John Jaye, was nice enough to tell us about our tiny neighbors and answer a few questions about hive life.
Jess: What kind of bees do you keep and how many would you say are in the colony?
John: The bees are Italian. Bellissima! A healthy hive can have 10,000 (winter) to 60,000 (summer) bees. Only a fraction of those bees are ever out of the hive at any one time.
Jess: How often do you get stung?
John: Maybe a few times a year. They only sting to defend the hive and they're much more interested in working than stinging. If you've ever been stung by a bee, 99% chance it was a yellow jacket, wasp or hornet. They are aggressive and carnivorous!
Jess: Are they really all females?
John: Mostly. In a bustling, healthy hive there will only be a few hundred males, called drones. Their only job is mating -- freeloaders
Jess: How did you get started? Did you have a bee mentor or are you self taught?
John: I started with lots of reading. The science of bees is very important to keeping them healthy. Mecklenburg County has a fantastic beekeepers association complete with a winter beginners class and mentor program. The first year I was self taught but the second year I took the Mecklenburg County class and awesome mentor program.
Jess: How much time on average do you spend taking care of the bees?
John: In the spring, summer and fall, I visit the bees once a week or once every two weeks and it takes about two or three hours for two or three hives.
Jess: With all of this hype in the news about murder hornets, do you have any advice to share to those of us who want information on what we can do to support our neighborhood apiary and other local honey sources?
The murder hornets are far away from our neighborhood apiary, but avoid the popular media and seek out honey bee sources for the best updates. The mainstream media has to condense a complicated subject into a short article and that often sensationalizes the topic. Google honey bee labs or beekeeper associations and you'll get the down to earth information on the Asian Giant Hornet. As for supporting our local apiary and local beekeepers, the best advice is plant lovely flowers and be careful what weed killers and pesticides you use. Check the labels and choose the ones that are safe for bees!
As for supporting our local apiary and local beekeepers, the best advice is plant lovely flowers and be careful what weed killers and pesticides you use. Check the labels and choose the ones that are safe for bees!
Jess: How often do you harvest the honey? How do you know when it’s time?
John: Usually once a year. When the nectar flow stops (usually in July) it's time to harvest!
Jess: What is the best and worst part about beekeeping?
John: The best part is seeing a hive survive the winter and thrive in the spring. I keep bees because they need our help and the science is fascinating. The worst part is the guilt when life knocks me off my bee schedule!
- John, thank you so much for sharing details of your hobby with us. The Towers residences are very excited to have them as neighbors. We'll do our best keep these amazing pollinators buzzing and happy in our hood.
Click this link for more information on Mecklenburg County's Beekeeper Association and the BeeSchool.