By Linda Knittel
When you live in rural Utah and are homeschooled by an entomologist father and a biologist mother, a unit on keeping and studying honeybees is par for the course. However, for the Huntzingers—Nathan (16), Samuel (14), Ben (11), Rachel (8) and Camilla (2)—the bee-related curriculum was their idea. Now they’ve turned that interest into a thriving honey-product business, one that is also helping to educate the kids, and the public, on everything from the threats facing bees to the use of bitcoin.
That first year, the project was all in the name of learning, and the one hive and few gallons of honey they reaped were simply enjoyed by the family. But over time the operation grew, and soon they were tending to nearly a dozen hives and producing more honey than they could handle. So the kids started educating others on beekeeping, created a handful of products including their best-selling honey caramels, and named their business Bees Brothers.
Six years later it has remained a real family affair. Grandparents, parents Craig and Kami and the children work together at home and at the local farmers’ market. The two oldest boys do most of the labor, making products in the commercial kitchen, creating the website and responding to online orders, while all the kids—except for two-year-old Camilla—work in the apiary tending to the bees. They’ve discovered much more than just how honeybees live; they’ve also learned responsibility, the value of hard work, and where their food comes from.
Calmful Living recently talked with the Huntzinger kids.
Calmful Living: What prompted the interest in beekeeping?
Nathan: We are always learning about science at our house. Ever since we were really little, we had alfalfa leafcutting bee nesting blocks on our front porch that we liked to watch. We wanted to learn about a different type of bee.
OC: What do you now know about honey and its benefits?
Nathan: Honey is much more nutritious than corn syrup and white sugar. Our family now uses honey for almost all of our cooking that needs sugar. It is important to use raw honey that has not been heated; otherwise you lose some of the enzymes, pollens and aromatic flavors of the honey.
OC: What have you learned about the dangers affecting bee populations around the world?
Nathan: Varroa mites are a big problem for honeybees because they weaken the hives and carry several diseases. Pesticides and habitat loss threaten honeybees and native bees as well.
Ben: Also, large areas of one type of crop can make it hard for pollinators to find food and shelter. Having only one type of food is not very healthy for bees.
OC: How is your work with bees helping to combat the risks bees face?
Nathan: We have created several presentations on the different diseases and parasites that can be harmful to honeybees—an often overlooked and confusing subject for new beekeepers. If they can prevent disease or recognize when they have one in their hives, they can fix it before it spreads to other hives.
Rachel: We also sell wildflower seeds that native bees and honeybees can use for nectar and pollen. The flowers grow well in Utah and bloom at different times all summer long. This helps people plant food sources for bees in their backyards.
OC: What are the biggest lessons you have learned from starting Bees Brothers?
Nathan: The biggest lesson I’ve learned from owning a business is how to work hard; also financial management, how to create a website, and time management. It’s made me aware too of economics and how individuals specialize in work or services and then collaborate with others to meet the needs of society.
Ben: I’ve learned how to work as a team with my family to get all our jobs done and help each other. I have also made a lot of friends who make really neat things like bread, cheese, jewelry and jams.
OC: What can you share about starting a business and working with bitcoin?
Nathan: Bitcoin takes a little bit of time to figure out, but ultimately it is easier and more efficient than credit cards or PayPal. With bitcoin there are no restrictions on age, and you don’t need a bank. There is some risk of price volatility to deal with, and the regulations, licensing and taxes are some of the most difficult and frustrating things to do; but it is very rewarding to work for yourself and make a product that other people appreciate.
OC: What do you plan to do with all your profits?
Nathan: Most of the profits go back into the business. We do make enough to help pay for music lessons and marching band. In the future I am planning on going to college, but I am going to need a lot more profits for that.
OC: What do you want the world to know about bees and about honey?
Nathan: I think that bees have a lot they can teach us. They all work together to accomplish numerous jobs without any supervisors or compulsion. It is amazing how they voluntarily work together and communicate to get all their tasks done and have a flourishing hive.
To find out more about Bees Brothers, visit www.beesbros.com