The retired civil engineer volunteers much of his time tending to the 42-acre garden of the Franciscan Monastery in Northeast D.C.'s Brookland neighborhood, including its nine beehives where the bees are busy gathering nectar now.
I understand you sell honey from the bees in the monastery gift shop?
We have done that over the years. Last year we had close to 800 pounds of honey that we were able to extract. ... We did have a loss of some hives over the winter, so we are probably not going to extract any honey -- at least not that much honey -- this year. We want to get the beehives strong again.
Stores and farmers markets sell "clover" honey or based on other flowers. What is your honey?
It is D.C. honey. And it's monastery honey. But we just designate it as wildflower honey. Most of the source of the nectar would be the tulip poplar flower. So it's a wildflower -- the linden flower as well as the black locust flower. ... And honeybees will travel for up to three miles for a source of nectar. So when you have urban gardens, flower boxes and other flower gardens, you get a wonderful collection of nectar and a wonderful flavor of honey.
Did you have experience with bees before this?
No, no. I'm an engineer by career, a civil engineer. I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. I always wanted to do bees, but we never did it as part of the farming there.
So why did you all decide beehives were important for the gardens?
It's all in keeping with the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi to help the wildlife, the birds and the plants. So the bees propagate the plants we have here.
How often do you get stung?
I probably get stung about 10 times a year. ... I call it a kiss from the female bees.
- Kytja Weir