When the weather drops below 50, most honeybees cluster in the hive. So with winter (technically) upon us, there aren't a lot of bees buzzing around right now. But, when you meet with Brandon and Susan Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild, there's no telling what bees will do. The February day I met them was on the chilly side -- it was sweater weather. Yet, as we sat on the patio behind Garden Café, at least five honeybees made an appearance. They would fly long, lazy circles around our table as my eyes (a bit nervously) traced them. I was trying hard to be totally cool about it because I was with the bee people.
"Don't worry," said Susan. "They're just checking us out."
"He's prone to bees with all his energy," Susan said of Brandon, as he flashed a smile back at her.
"I'm a worker girl," Susan offers later, "Our standard line is, 'Worker girls may have a short life, they only live six weeks, but they don't have to lay 1,500 eggs a day.'"
There are lots of bee jokes.
The Pollards run the Texas Honeybee Guild, which entails the occasional bee wrangling (for example, moving a hive in an abandoned home to a proper safe place), and managing hives. They have partnered with local residents and businesses to put hives in different areas of the city, such as atop Bolsa in Oak Cliff and Eden's Organic Garden in Balch Springs. Then, they bottle up the honey and sell glorious amber jars of "ZIP Code Honey."
Eating honey with the flavors from your local flowers, trees and shrubs has shown to be good for allergies. In addition to jarring, the Pollards have also been working with local chefs for years and have made their way into many recipes, like some at Dude, Sweet Chocolate and Bolsa. They're encouraged by the recent uptick in locally driven menus.
"Chefs are trying," Susan Pollard said. "And not only are some of them really trying, they also want to have relationships with the local purveyors. We think it's important for them to actually meet the farmers. They need to have those quality relationships."
"If you're going to bee real," started Susan, extending the "ee."
"Then bee real," finished Brandon. Then they both nodded.
Relationships are key to the Pollards. Right now they have more than 100 hives around the city covering 40 ZIP codes and each of those is based on having established a relationship.
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"There's a vetting process involved," said Susan, who regularly gets calls and requests from new people interested in "hosting" a beehive. With only the two of them managing this business, they're cautious and slow about expanding.
In addition to regularly meeting with chefs, restaurants and beekeepers, they're also advocates and educators working with local schools to teach kids about bees. Their worn-out bee costumes show their mileage and are in constant need of repair. They regularly bicker over the set of antennas that aren't broken.
"When we started," Susan said, "the idea of making a positive impact on our city was important. We're not just beekeepers, we're about conservation and education. We can't become perfect over night, but we need to figure out as much as we can. And a lot of that has to do with educating kids."
If you're interested in some of their honey, or just meeting the Pollards, they're at the Dallas Farmers Market every Saturday and Sunday with their complete line of products, as they have been for almost a decade. If you go, just remember to bee real.