Mickey Kleinhenz first got into beekeeping when he started assisting former Oak Forest resident Sean Pessarra, who had a bee removal business called Mindful Honey.
Kleinhenz bought some bees when he was starting out, but he also got extra honeybees from the removals that he and Pessarra were doing. Now he has 50 colonies at five different bee yards, including one at property he owns in Inwood Pines, and he is still going strong.
For Kleinhenz, who has an undergraduate degree in horticulture and food production as well as a master’s in landscape architecture, the way he keeps bees is the same way he manages his gardens – with a light hand.
“I’m a little more hands off,” Kleinhenz said.
He says as bees reproduce, they will start new colonies as the current ones become crowded. The queen bee will leave the hive, sending out a pheromone to the hive that she is getting ready to vacate and take some workers with her.
Then, she travels about a quarter-mile away in the search for a new hive, and the old hive produces another queen.
Because Kleinhenz sets up appealing boxes with some honeycomb bait in the trees in his garden, the queen oftentimes will not stray as far.
“(The swarm trap) is basically a fishing lure,” he said.
In three or four weeks, once the hive gets going, he relocates it closer to the ground.
Honey production most often occurs during the late spring and summer months. The bees then slow down in preparation for winter.
“There is a strong seasonality to it,” Kleinhenz said. “The queens stop laying so much and there’s a period of rest.”
Now is the time that Kleinhenz will condense his hives before winter and spread them out a little so they can flourish again, when warmer weather comes. And it is when he gets his last batch of honey for the season, which he offers for sale on the Oak Forest Homeowners Association’s Facebook page.
“It is like pruning a rose for vigor,” Kleinhenz said, “so that the hives can stay dense and warm in winter.”
Kleinhenz said he would love to offer classes in beekeeping. He was working with Durham Elementary students in their garden, until the schools closed for in-person learning last March.
Wabash Feed & Garden, 4537 N. Shepherd Dr., also offers beekeeping classes taught by John Berry as well as supplies and equipment.
During a 2019 HomeShow Garden Pros segment, Berry said the No. 1 question he gets asked is, “Am I going to get stung?”
The answer is yes, but Berry also said there is a relaxation in beekeeping that is unique.
One person who took Kleinhenz up on his expertise was Ella Lee Forest’s Nathan Benesh, who along with wife, Lauren, became interested in beekeeping after taking some classes. This is the second year they’ve been beekeepers. This year, their three hives produced enough honey to distribute “Benesh Bees” honey to friends and family.
“It’s a hobby that can pay for itself,” Nathan Benesh said.
One of the family’s hives was purchased, the second moved from an owl box in The Woodlands, and the third was lured in using Kleinhenz’s method.
“They send out scouts first,” Benesh said.
He said he and Lauren have been stung a few times when their hive inspections annoyed the bees but that none of their four children – who like to help them – have been stung.
“These are gentle queens with gentle genetics,” he said. “The kids really enjoy it, and we’re trying to be good neighbors, so that’s important.”
Kleinhenz believes bee temperament is as much about nurture as nature.
“It is how you interact with them,” he said.
While Benesh had thought about doing a “crude” harvest, using a filter to get honey from the manually crushed comb, he then discovered he could rent a mechanical extractor from Wabash. He said the extractor made things a lot more convenient.
“There are a lot of people who are willing to mentor others,” Benesh said.
For more on getting started with a hive, visit https://www.almanac.com/beekeeping-101-getting-started-planning-for-bees.
Kleinhenz also offers live bee removal, colonies for sale and mentoring services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or “Mickey Kleinhenz” on Facebook.