Sweet Stingers: The Family Business of Bees
Maybe you’ve seen a tractor trailer loaded with beehive boxes traveling the highways? Commercial beekeepers are crisscrossing the country to pollinate crops, and Justin Scott was early into his own commercial bee operation when Covid changed his business model.
“People were homesteading more and showing an interest in having bees in their yards,” said Justin, owner of Sweet Stingers Honey & Apiary. “I offered to put a few hives in friends’ yards so they could learn how to do beekeeping. Instead, they quickly realized that it was easier for me to just drop by and manage the hives for them.”
The concept expanded, and now, Justin has over 800 hives placed throughout Oklahoma. He regularly drives to different parts of the state, checking on his hives and removing the honey. “It takes me about 90 seconds to get in and out of a hive,” Justin said. “If the bees are content and doing well, I only have to visit once every ten days to two weeks.”
Hives in Unusual Places
In exchange for allowing Justin to place beehives on different properties, Sweet Stingers’ customers receive honey to eat, sell or give away. Not only are Justin’s hives placed in private, pesticide-free backyards, large and small, he has a growing number of businesses requesting bees.
“I have hives in courtyards, on hotel roofs, at schools and community gardens, and in gift shops that source local products,” Justin said. “Restaurants are also adding my hives, especially for chefs who are creating local food menus. Corporations with green initiatives are adding hives to teach their employees about pollinators.”
A small percentage of Sweet Stingers’ business profit comes from selling honey at booths. Customers enjoy sampling a variety of flavors from different regions of the state. Backyard hives in central Oklahoma produce light-colored sweet honey, while rural regions produce darker, bolder honey.
Corporate sponsorships represent Justin’s largest area of business growth. “And if that keeps growing to a sustainable level, I would love to just give the honey away. Teaching people about the role of bees and helping them overcome their fear is really what we are about.”
Honey and Humming
The sweet smell of nectar and the gentle hum of a hive buzzing with 70,000 bees is hard to fully describe, but it is proving to be very therapeutic. Scientists are finding that the soothing smell and the tone of the humming is effective at calming people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Surrounding states are developing bee programs for veterans and prisoners, and Justin is interested in the results.
Justin’s grandfather was a beekeeper, and Justin attributes his life-long interest in bees to a childhood experience that happened with his grandfather when he was nine years old. “I was tending the okra in grandfather’s garden when he said, ‘Get in the truck.’ He wasn’t the kind of man you ignored, so I crawled into the truck and he handed me a box with no lid. I looked down and was shocked. The box was full of bees, just inches from my face!” Justin said. “I was scared, but fascinated. After that, I learned alongside my grandfather, and he taught me the bee business, and I’m still intrigued.”
Sweet Stingers continues as a family-based business. Justin and his son care for the hives, his daughter specializes in wax candles and locations, and his wife manages finances and scheduling. They are all making Oklahoma a sweeter place, one hive at a time.
Visit them on Facebook and Youtube @SweetStingers, or on Instagram @SweetStingersOk.