HARRIS COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) – The smell of fresh honey and the gentle sound of honey bees hard at work fill the air as two local beekeepers tend to their bees.
Gerald Riley, the owner of Overflo Barber shop and Beauty Salon, has many tricks under his clippers. When he’s not cutting hair he’s tending to his honey bees with his beekeeper partner James Lewis.
Riley introduced Lewis to beekeeping and for the past year it has become his passion. Lewis said Riley introduced him to beekeeping at the right time, because that’s when everything shut down due to COVID-19.
“Right about a year now, I started last year in the middle of COVID,” Lewis said. “At the same time it was a passion of mine that I developed after getting started with it and having the time to do it made it even better.”
In the midst of the pandemic Lewis began selling his honey and business was buzzing. Lewis said people were already buying honey from him but when the pandemic started they started buying it even more because honey was becoming scarce in the store.
“It increased the sales, the sales were already great but COVID-19 increased it. More people were available to consume the honey, so every time somebody had some in the Hamilton and Muscogee County area and people knew about it, they sold out almost instantly. ”
Since gaining knowledge about beekeeping Lewis wants to pour his knowledge into the youth. Especially those in the black community because it’s not every day that you see a black beekeeper.
“One my dreams is to pour as much of what is in me, in the generation that’s following me. This beekeeping is something that many young African American males will find attractive when they learn value of the bees.”
According to Karma Honey Project, honey bees are the most important pollinators for flowers, fruits and vegetables. Lewis wants those to understand that bees are our friends and if you have a bee problem to call a bee removal group instead of an exterminator.
“There a groups called bee removal and they will come to your home and they will remove the bees without you having to exterminate them. I look forward to people knowing how to get that number, call that number and have the bees removed, so we won’t have to lose other bees.”
While News 3 was interviewing Lewis around the honey bees, we noticed the bees were calm and gentle. Lewis said this is normal behavior for bees unless you agitate them.
“Don’t fight them and don’t agitate them because once you agitate the bees it’s just like picking on a dog. The dog is going to start barking and ready to attack, these bees are similar in their environment. Once you irritate them, instead of flying around they’ll fly to you and they’ll attack you.”
Aside from the potential dangers of beekeeping, Lewis said his favorite part about beekeeping is the beauty of it all and enjoying God’s creation.
“Being able to come out here in peace and be alone, get a chance to mediate. While I’m working with the bees and understanding that God created them with a specific purpose and allowed me to be in their environment, to learn from them.”
From time to time Lewis’ wife, Wilhelmina Lewis joins him in tending the bees. Mrs. Lewis said she enjoys watching her husband tend to his hive.
“It’s something that he now likes, it’s fine with me. I was somewhat concerned but coming down here to assist him and work with him, I’ve learned to adapt to him. Seeing him, he’s excited, he’s happy, he’s not afraid of the bees, I’m happy for him,” Mrs. Lewis said.
Lewis will be adding more bees to his hive towards the end of May as he plans on harvesting all of his honey in September.
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