Local Entrepreneur Jane Sueme Is a Honey Bee’s Best Friend
In August, beekeepers are as busy as, well, bees—because this month marks the start of the honey harvest. Aug. 17 is also World Honey Bee Day, which strives to bring awareness to the needs of the bees during this important time.
“This is where we reap the rewards,” says Jane Sueme, an entrepreneur in the bee industry and a tireless advocate for the buzzing insects. “The bouquet of the honey when you harvest is extraordinary.”
Sueme developed her passion for honey bees by accident when she noticed that her home garden had a dearth of native bees pollinating the plants. “We put honey bees in our yard, assuming they’d help pollinate,” she said. However, most gardens are full of diverse plant life, and honey bees—which were imported from Europe during the 17th century—prefer pollinating in a monoculture, so native bees do the job much better.
It’s a mistake Sueme says is common with beekeeping novices. But while the honey bees didn’t help her garden, they did spark an her interest in learning more about this hard-working species. She became fascinated by their complex social order—and fond of the honey they produce as well.
In 2009, Sueme co-founded Isabee’s, the area’s first beekeeping store, to help educate beekeepers and to provide an alternative to the internet for equipment and information. Since Isabee’s opened its doors, Sueme says that local and national interest in the hobby has exploded, and so has the need for a place where beekeepers can get quality products as well as accurate information about how to care for their charges.
“My focus is to help people be good beekeepers,” she says, adding that it takes a lot of effort to keep a hive healthy and thriving, especially in an environment where chemicals are frequently utilized. “From day one, I started this business to provide a service to the community.”
In addition to Isabee’s, Sueme also helped found Saint Louis Beekeepers, which promotes education and healthy natural systems where bees can thrive, and the BeeSpeakSTL speaker series. She’s also served on the board of Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association, and in 2016 she became a certified Master Beekeeper.
Besides being the harvest month, August is also the time when beekeepers begin to concentrate on bolstering their hives to ensure they make it through the winter. “The number one goal of beekeepers is keeping their bees alive over the winter,” Sueme says, making this an especially hectic time for her.
While she admits that she has little time for life outside the world of honey bees, Sueme says she remains passionate about and inspired by beekeeping. “It’s a very rich hobby,” she says. “And [bees] provide a lot to us humans.”
Featured image courtesy of Tao Yuan.