LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (AP) – When most people think of beekeepers, they probably don’t exactly think of it as a peaceful and relaxing hobby. But Shirley Lovett does.
That’s good because Lovett, who started Stan the Bugman Pest Control in 1999 with her now-retired husband, just began a new beekeeping venture last month. And with images of what Lovett describes as people carrying beards of bees and the sounds of the constant hum of a beehive dancing in her head, she said she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I’m excited,” said Lovett as she tended to her 10 white boxes of Italian bees. “It’s a new adventure.”
Lovett received approval last month from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a three-year lease of a 30-by-50-foot stretch of land 10 miles south of the city limits on Arizona Highway 95. Her bees arrived from the Sacramento area a few days later.
Beekeeping simply is something that Lovett said she wanted to do for a while to supplement the pest-control business, and she finally feels comfortable getting started now.
“The main reason I’m doing this is I’m tired of killing bees,” Lovett said.
Thirty-four bee calls have come into Stan the Bugman since the beginning of the year, Lovett said.
Now, she has a place to keep them.
So she was out in the unassuming location changing the sugar and water drink and adding a nutritional supplement to keep her 100,000 bees healthy.
“We need bees for pollination of our food,” Lovett said. “We wouldn’t have any almonds without bees.”
The bees working away on Lovett’s hives had only started producing honey and were in varying, early stages of the process.
Lovett’s goal is to start her own local honey business – Squirrely Shirley’s Havasu Honey – in six months with what her bees produce.
“This is not a three-year hobby,” Lovett said referring to her lease on the property. “This is something I can do for the rest of my life and still remain active in the business.”
A desk job never appealed to Lovett.
“I like the idea of giving back to nature, providing a replacement of bees,” Lovett said of her dual business responsibilities.
She anticipates being able to double her beehives from 10 to 20 in response to local bee calls.
The Lake Havasu City Fire Department has had what seems like a typical year with the number of bee calls, said Battalion Chief James Whitt.
“We average half a dozen to a dozen (bee) calls a week,” Whitt said. There’s typically a spike in calls when the weather starts to warm up and that’s what people are experiencing now, he added.
Usually, there’s one bee emergency a year when bees are attacking people, Whitt said.
And Lovett said they don’t want any part of the overly aggressive Africanized bees that typically do the attacking.
“I’ve had one Africanized bee chase me for 75 feet,” Lovett said.
There are concerns that Africanized bees could invade the hives and take over, Lovett said.
“I want to kill the mean (Africanized) bees and keep the nice (Italian) ones,” Lovett said.
Yes, she absolutely has been stung – four times already this year.
“But a wasp sting hurts worse to me,” Lovett said.
Lovett does what she can to protect herself from the bees by wearing a white protective suit, head gear and gloves. Yet, she’s been stung by aggressive bees through the gloves before.
She’s a little concerned about being stung by more rambunctious hikers who might stumble upon her beekeeping operation and want a closer look. Yet, the location relatively close to the road should deter most folks, she added.
“By the time (the hikers) come back from their hike, they’re tired and they want to go home,” Lovett said. They probably don’t want a closer look of the beehives at that point, she added.