The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Buzzing

August 27, 2020

Written By: Dustie M. Clements

Posted In: Elevate Magazine

"The Bee Guy"

Jerry Owens retired and moved to South Dakota in 2003. He purchased his first beehive and delved into the world of beekeeping. 

By 2009, he made it his goal to help others start beekeeping as well. Owens set up a booth at the county fair in Rapid City to gather interest. Nearly 90 people signed up to start a bee club, including Bill and Joan Clements.

With such strong interest, Owens formed the Wannabee Hobby Beekeepers Association to preserve and keep bees. He became known as “The Bee Guy,” supplying bees and equipment to first-time beekeepers with his business, ADR Bees. Knowing it was time to hang it up once again, Owens sold ADR Bees to Bill and Joan Clements who rebranded the business into Dakota Honey and Bee Supplies.

Dakota Honey and Bee Supplies

Bill and Joan established their first hive in 2009 to enjoy honey and help the bee population. What they thought was a hobby quickly grew into much more. One hive multiplied into nearly ten at their apiary in Tilford, SD. “With our four colonies there are easily 150,000 to 200,000 bees,” explains Bill.

Eleven years later, in January of 2020, Bill and Joan began Dakota Honey and Bee Supplies in the back of D&M Ag Supply in Rapid City. A mutual friend introduced the Clements to the owners, Paul and Jana Shankle. They had purchased D&M Ag Supply in 2018 and were looking to expand their inventory to include bee supplies.

The store is located off East Highway 44, near Jolly Lane Nursery. Shoppers can purchase anything from lip balm made from beeswax to a full beekeeping kit. The Clements want to make beekeeping accessible by keeping prices reasonable and having everything needed to start a hive available in their store. “The store carries everything a beekeeper will need to start keeping bees from scratch,” Joan said. “In fact, we can special order supplies if it isn’t found in the store.” Included in the starter kit, which is around $400 with bees, are hive boxes, tools for hive maintenance, and protection equipment. No classes or extensive research is needed to start beekeeping; however, Bill suggests purchasing the book Beekeeping for Dummies which is also found at the store. “It’s a great resource for new and seasoned beekeepers alike,” he says.

Local, Local, Local

Both Dakota Honey and Bee Supplies and D&M Ag Supply encourage supporting local businesses. They offer unique products such as: books by regional authors, hives painted by local artists, and most importantly, local raw honey. The Clements enjoy beekeeping not just for bees worldwide, but because it helps the Black Hills overall. “Beekeeping is helpful specifically to the Black Hills for crops and gardens because the bees pollinate the different plants,” Joan explains. “Without the bees there would be very little pollination going on. They’re the major pollinators in this area.”

Not only do bees help pollinate a third of the world’s food supply, honey from the area can help people with seasonal allergies and health maintenance. Bill’s daughters have been around bees for a long time and they eat raw honey from their area to help with their seasonal allergies, both noticing the honey helps tremendously. Bill’s daughter Lacy shared, “If I don’t eat it for a few days then I do feel a difference [allergy wise]. I also like to make sure I get some daily in the fall and winter to help fight colds off.”

Who Can be a Beekeper?

There is no age limit to beekeeping. In general, honeybees are extremely docile creatures who do not want to sting. A bee dies shortly after it stings, so it's in the bees best interest to keep their stingers to themselves. Honeybees are so passive, that beekeeping is allowed inside city limits. In February 2020, Rapid City became the first Bee City USA affiliate in South Dakota, committing the city to the protection of honeybees.

Joan smiled proudly as she advised, “Become a beekeeper if you can because it is a very interesting hobby. You’ll never not want to have bees again.”