WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa (KWQC) – Paul Kay smiles when asked how many times he's been stung.
“Countless times. I couldn’t even tell you.”
It’s an occupational hazard that Kay, a West Burlington beekeeper, is gladly willing to suffer for Butter's Bees (the name comes from the college nickname Kay had because his first and last names together sound like the margarine "Parkay").
Kay maintains up to 20 hives which at peak times can house 1.4 million bees producing hundreds of pounds of honey a year.
The operation is technically commercial but is motivated by conservation.
“All my bees are wild bees; I don’t buy packaged bees,” says Kay. “I either catch wild swarms or I take bee colonies out of structures – houses, garages, under porches, I’ve been in every place, basically.”
Kay’s bees are not only 100% local, but they also feed only on local vegetation – and with no antibiotics or chemicals to protect them from natural threats.
“Bees survived without man’s intervention for years and years,” says Kay, gesturing at his colonies. “Plants and animals adapt to their environment if you let them. If you keep trying to manipulate them with pesticides and antibiotics or whatever you might keep some weaker bee colonies alive longer but eventually it’s a slippery slope.”
Kay understands he may lose more bees than other truly commercial operations, but his bees which do survive will hopefully be stronger and better able to adapt.
Since he also happens to be a conservation officer for the State of Iowa, protecting the overall popular is important to Kay.
Click to see Butter’s Bees – Made in the QCA.