For someone who’s afraid of bugs, becoming a beekeeper may seem an odd pursuit. However, fear didn’t stop David Graun of Graun Bee Company in Petersburg from doing just that. After watching a documentary about the implications of the loss of honeybees, the Menard Electric Cooperative member decided to help.

In 2018, he and his wife Cassie, then Springfield residents, found four acres available in Petersburg. “We reached out to the people selling the property and [asked], ‘Do you mind if we move bees [there] before we buy it?’” Graun laughs. “So, our bees literally moved to the property before [us].”

He says the number of bees has approximately doubled each year, and these days, in addition to Petersburg, they also have hives in Greenview and Oakford. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been an overwhelming time investment for the National Guardsman and Illinois Emergency Management Agency employee. Graun adds that, in fact, when he’s been away from the hives for a season, whether due to work or for personal reasons, it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“You have different types of beekeepers,” he says. “I like to get into my beehive(s) twice a month, per hive, to do an inspection. I want them to be bees, and I don’t want to disturb them.” He explains that beekeepers also have different approaches to pest control.

“I decided that I want to manage problems [with] more of a natural approach,” says Graun. “You could do a chemical, or you could do a brood break. That’s when we take the Queen and either remove her by splitting her off and putting her into a different box [for a period] or eliminate her.” He opts for the break, adding that over time, the results are just as effective.

While Graun didn’t begin his beekeeping journey to sell honey, it is for sale online and at local businesses, including Whimsy Tea Company in Springfield. The two businesses also collaborated on new teas — the first, D.W.’s Bee Tea, named after Graun’s son, and the latest, Mama Bee’s Tea, in honor of his wife. The company’s main product, Sweet Everly’s Honey, shares its name with his daughter.

Graun says that most of the honey in their area comes from tree blossoms — and the flavor of their honey reflects what’s nearby, including an apple orchard, a pumpkin patch, sunflowers and clover. The best honey, in his opinion, is the first “pull” of the year.

“It comes off as almost crystal clear,” he says. “There are a couple things that change honey color: temperature variance — so, if I have honey that stays in a bucket, and the temperature goes up and down 10 degrees, every time it varies, it can get darker. Time can make it go darker, too. But that first [pull], sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself, [it’s so] good.”

Maybe most important to Graun, though, is the company’s role in educating others about the importance of what they are doing. “We bring out an observation hive … kids there will get a spoonful of honey straight out of the hive,” he says. “I think that’s the coolest thing ever, because I hadn’t had that opportunity when I was a kid.”

Graun Bee Company

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