The Sweetest Thing
A BEEHIVE-DELIVERY AND HONEY-HARVESTING SERVICE? YES, PLEASE
Steven Zeltmann is 33 and lives in Quogue with his wife, Cynthia, and their three kids, Augustin, Eloise, and Alcott. The story of how he, a landscaper by trade, came to launch a beehive business—delivering, installing, and servicing beehives, so customers can harvest their own honey even if they’re not overblessed with spare time or handyman skills—is the first clue that he’s a total, um, sweetie. Augustin, it happens, was a toddler when he was not only diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes but started to show signs of the wicked seasonal allergies that had plagued his dad when he was young. Both of these ailments required Augustin’s getting a lot of shots, which, obviously, isn’t something he or his parents enjoyed very much. That’s when Steven started to get into honey. A daily spoonful, from bees that buzz and pollinate in the Zeltmanns’ general neighborhood, helps keep Augustin’s allergies at bay. Out from their house and coffee mugs went the sugar, in came the honey — eventually from hives in their own backyard.
Steven became an expert bee handler. “It’s one of those things that you need to learn from experience,” he says, “because there are not enough books or internet videos that really can [explain] what it’s like to truly handle honey bees.” While doing landscaping for an East Hampton company, he came across a couple of properties where fruit trees and flowering meadows had recently been planted. Honeybees, of course, are great pollinators of fruit and flowers, as well as of vegetable gardens, so he told the homeowners they would benefit from the presence of bees, and asked if he could install and maintain hives on their land. And so Homestead Bees and Gardens was born. Of course, not everyone has a handy-dandy orchard or meadow at their spread, but you don’t need to be a land baron to reap the sweet rewards. Bees travel farther than you’d think when they feed. “Anyone who puts a beehive on their property is helping pollinate not just their property, but the land five miles around their hive,” he says. Populating the land with more and more hives is good for the bee population, which — as we’ve all heard by now — has been under extreme stress in recent years. It’s good for the Earth in general.
“For your average homeowner, my goal is to get them set up with the hive and take time to teach them how to maintain it if they choose to. If they do not, we provide that service. My goal, personally, is to not just educate the community about bees but to connect people to their land. In the age of iPads and overworking ourselves, home needs to be the sanctuary for us to reset and reconnect with the nature around us.”
Homestead Bees offers a choice of different hive styles, and the initial set-up cost depends on what the customer picks. “It could be between $1,000 to $1,450 for the hive and bees supplied and installed,” Steven estimates. Pricing for maintenance — weekly inspections of hives, and harvesting — differs, too, depending on the client’s needs: “About $100 to $300 a month, regardless of how many times the hive needs to be inspected.” Steven guarantees four inspections a month, but if more are necessary, he doesn’t charge extra. The cost also depends on what people want to do with their honey. “If the client ends up with more honey then they wanted, we can happily buy it back, but I recommend passing it along to family and friends at the holidays.”
Steven Zeltmann of Quogue will deliver, install, and maintain hives for you. He got into honey because he found it helped his son fight off seasonal allergies. He can be reached at Steven@Homesteadbeesgardens.com. Top: Happy bees, happy homes. John Seung-Hwan Shene / Shutterstock. Above: Photo, Homestead Bees and Gardens.