Local Beekeeper Shares Honey Pot, Stings and Health Benefits
Buzzing at Chesterfield Valley’s edge are busy, winged insects communicating with each other in 10,000 ways, according to their personal apiculturist. Joe and Joanna Duever’s bees, within their approximately 40 hives, also produce plenty of honey to sell from the couple’s doorstep.
Joe Duever III has been beekeeping since he was 4 years old. When a bee swarm lit down by him while helping to prune grapes, his grandfather thought he was destined to have bees of his own. Bees have been a constant part of his life since.
Although his Italian and Russian honeybees now sting him three to five times nightly during handling seasons, he says tending to their needs is pleasant and peaceful. He uses his bee time to wind down from his 12- to 16-hour work days. He spends a daily average of two hours with his bees, between cleaning hives, studying trends about them and attending classes.
This beekeeper is mighty proud of honeybees.
“They are smarter, more flexible and a lot more resilient than anyone realizes. And I admire their dedication and how hard they work,” he says.
The Duevers have lived in Chesterfield since before it was incorporated—his family settled into West St. Louis County in 1865 in what is now Creve Coeur. They called it Fern Ridge then. Bees have been at all of their family’s properties, and they carefully integrated certain plants, such as buckwheat, into their property to create a honeybee’s smorgasbord. Regional plants influence the taste and coloring of bees’ honey.
“My bees bring back witch hazel in January, maple after that, then locust and finally clover during the summers,” Duever says, explaining honey hues typically lighten as each season progresses.
It turns out the entire Duever family has a bee affinity with Duever’s dad and brother also being avid beekeepers.
“We compare notes, but my brother is more into the biology of it all. Me, I just like talking to the bees and helping them out,” he says.
People often don’t realize the importance of bees, with one–third of human food affected by these pollinators. Health benefits of consuming local honey are numerous, espouses Duever, who says it’s a more digestible sugar that eliminates certain allergies and calms those who consume it. Duever’s regular honey customers often seek the perfect balance to dietary needs.
“They are typically mothers with one or two kids, or are from India or Pakistan or are people just looking for a natural sweetener,” he says.
He says Egyptians used honey to heal wounds and admits to slathering some on injuries, all with positive results.
Meeting people from throughout Missouri and the United States has been a side benefit of selling the popular golden nectar, Duever says. A couple visiting from London even stopped and bought a jar of honey from them.
“Everyone has a story about bees, and likes to share them,” he says. “Many people aren’t attached to Mother Nature anymore. Bees make you acutely aware of your surroundings. I really enjoy that connection, that attachment.”
One of the most intriguing developments at Duever’s home was when a limousine and cars pulled up to his front yard.
“The best we can tell, these were Hindus having a wedding ceremony in our cacti, plants and bees.”
Among the 20,000 known bee species, Duever says a healthy population of feral bees exists in the Chesterfield area.
“There are probably 10 wild beehives for every square mile here.”
During May, the bees will be obsessed with swarming and splitting their hives according to old and new queen bees.
“While swarming, I know the bees discuss where they want to go and what they want to do,” Duever says. “It’s fascinating to watch their life cycles, and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”
When Duever isn’t tending his bees, he presides over his Chesterfield-based business, All Outdoors Inc., which he started in 1963 as a lawn mowing service. Now the company includes full landscape design, tree trimming, storm damage cleanup and year-round landscaping maintenance.
To purchase this local honey, stop by Duever’s self-service honey table at 100 N. Eatherton Road in Chesterfield or call 314.920.0115 for special orders of two pounds for $15 or 1 pound for $8. Duever says the honey money goes straight back to supporting the honeybees.