Mentorship program offers help for beginner beekeepers

In a Virginia Beach backyard sit four beehives, ignored by most of the community. This backyard venture isn’t David Kvello’s only claim to honeybees. He also has three other locations: two in other suburban backyards, and up to 25 hives on different plots of an 800 acre farm.

Kvello, one of Tidewater’s leading beekeepers, works to keep the buzzing creatures alive. That means providing food and water, room to store nectar and pollen, and sometimes even medical care. While Kvello said his busy hobby has been very exciting over the past 10 years, recently not everything has been looking up.

“I have had as many as 25 hives in all locations, but the constant winter losses are taking their toll,” he said. “Both on the bees and my enthusiasm.”

Kvello said he has encountered some bee fear when transporting bee equipment or bees in buildings. He said dangerous pesticides and climate change are decreasing bee populations.

That's why Kvello has begun working to encourage amateur beekeepers. Kvello is president of the Virginia Beach Bee Club, which offers a free mentorship program. Kvello also recommends hobbyists spend some time educating themselves.

“Read, read, read, read,” he said. “Then go get a mentor. There is no reason to start this hobby alone.”

As urban beekeeping becomes more popular, advancements in technology have made it easier and cheaper to keep honeybees. Research from the University of Toronto shows that up to 75,000 bees are kept on average by urban beekeepers, who are able to sell their bees, beeswax and honey.

Beekeeping has been shown to relieve stress of those who take care of them. There are also the physical rewards, like honey and wax. Bees also help the local environment, pollinating flowers and fruits.

“They pollinate more than 90 percent of traditional crops — things like apples, blueberries, broccoli, celery, cherries, kiwis, and melons owe their success to bees," Kvello said. "Basically, without bees, much of the food you’ve grown up loving wouldn’t be available in nearly the same numbers, if they are at all.

“Not to mention the fact that they are pretty damn cute.”