The buzz of bees puts most folks on edge, but not Destin’s Peter Wright. For him it’s the sound of sweet relief.
“When they’re swarming around that means they’re happy,” Wright said as he worked the hives in his yard on Forest Drive in South Walton.
Wright, who owns The Ships Chandler in Destin, has been beekeeping for the past seven years. And after a tough day at the office, “I like to come down here and go through the flats at the end of the day,” he said, “instead of grabbing a TV changer and sitting on the couch.
“My wife calls it my obsession,” he said. “And now it’s honey out the ears.”
Wright has already pulled about 100 gallons of honey off his hives this year and has about 80 more sitting ready.
“It’s a hot hobby this time of year,” he said, wearing long sleeves and pants as the bees swarmed around him while he dug around in the hives. Wright said most of the time he wears a T-shirt, shorts and slaps on the job.
Wright has 30 hives scattered around his yard, 15 on the Choctawhatchee River, four at Red Bay, one in Fort Walton Beach and 15 in Alabama.
“My neighbors love it,” he said.
“Our yard has never looked better,” said Wright’s wife Beth as she looked around at all the blooming plants and flowers as well as their garden that the bees help to pollinate.
Wright got into the bee business because of his father-in-law, Hank Harper.
Originally Harper was trying to get the grandkids involved with the beekeeping.
“They didn’t want anything to do with it,” Beth said.
However, for Peter it was a different story.
“He just loves it, you can tell,” she said.
Peter started with 12 hives and has worked his way up to 65.
Some of Wright’s hives hold as many as 30,000 bees.
The “working area” for the bees is about a three-mile radius from the hive, Wright said, which would encompass the area from Emerald Bay to Sandestin for those located at his home in south Walton.
“And they remember where they come from,” he said. “They go three or four miles away and come right back to this box.”
And every bee has a job to do.
“There is no social programs … you do a job or you are kicked out,” Wright said.
“All morning long they are getting ready to go out,” he said as he pulled out one of the frames covered in bees from the hive.
And on the list of things for the bee to do is get honey and nectar. “But more than anything right now they are going after pollen … from everything,” Wright said. “Then they bring it back here and stash it.”
A hive is made up of different chambers, from a brood to a deep super which is the term used for the honey box. The brood consists of about nine to 10 frames where the bee will stash the honey.
“I get stung a lot,” Wright said. “Beth is all the time picking stingers out of me.”
However, a bee will only sting once. “A bee dies when it stings,” he said. Accept for the queen bee that can sting three or four times.
But digging and checking the hives is something he does on a daily basis.
“It’s like an ongoing science project all the time,” Beth said.
Once the flats are mostly capped off, it’s time to uncap the cells and sling out the honey.
Wright uses a hot electric knife to scrape off the waxed caps on the frames, and then puts the flats in an extractor that slings the honey out. And from the extractor he pours the honey straight into the bottles for sale or to giveaway to friends and family.
“You feel productive when you’re doing this … you get something out of it,” Beth said.
Wright, who has gotten about a dozen people interested in working with bees, said it’s pretty easy to get started in the business.
He said it’s best to start with two hives.
“Split the hive in February and by April you’ll have honey big time,” he said. And four hives can produce about 35 gallons of honey in a season.
Working with bees, “is like farming,” he said. “I just hope more people do it.”