Bob “BZ Beekeeper” Zappacosta: What is the Buzz About?
“The busy bee has no time for sorrow.”
The honey bee is a most intriguing creature--intriguing and very, very busy. Bob Zappacosta, a Boston native, has lived in Pooler with his wife Karen for about seven years. He has long appreciated the tiny, often misunderstood creature. Actually, while most people are quite intimidated by a buzzing swarm, Bob is fascinated. For some time now, Bob has loved learning about bees and appreciates their priceless contributions to the world.
“I have always loved bees and have been fascinated with nature for a long time,” Bob said.
That passion eventually led Bob to beekeeping, a craft that he has enjoyed for over five years. After moving to the area, Bob worked alongside a beekeeper mentor for about a year and joined a local bee club to gain more experience in the field.
There are different ways to begin as a beekeeper. Individuals can purchase a “package” of bees, whether online or from local bee sellers. Packages are small, wooden boxes that normally contain three pounds of adult bees (about 10,000) and a queen that is placed in a separate cage within the box. Purchasing packages is usually the most economical route. Package bees, however, are often unrelated and come from different hives with a new queen added; this can cause stress to the colony and make it weak.
In contrast, Bob recommends “nucs,” or nucleus colonies, to form hives. Usually more expensive, a nuc is a small colony of bees made from a larger colony contained in a small box. The environment normally includes all that is necessary for the colony to get off to a good start. Offspring comes from one queen, so a lesser adjustment period is needed for them to thrive; the colony tends to grow relatively fast the first season.
“A good queen can lay about 2,000 eggs daily; things can really get going well and explode,” Bob commented.
A four-frame nuc contains about 10,000 bees; that amount can quadruple within just a couple of months. It includes bees, brood (eggs in different stages) and a mated queen. Each nuc usually consists of about 4-5 frames of comb, one frame of honey, pollen and nectar to sustain the colony, along with some beeswax. All these necessities, which are not found in a package alone, allow for the hive to really flourish.
“It can take off pretty quickly, especially depending on the various stages of the eggs,” Bob stated.
When a box of bees fills up, a new box can be added to create a larger hive; some can become about seven or eight boxes high. Buying multiple hives allows beekeepers to retain a larger number of bees in case some do not survive.
“I suggest that beekeepers get more than one hive … maybe two or three. This helps in case a hive is weak; eggs can be taken from one and put into another,” Bob remarked.
Hives should be placed in the best environments possible--those allowing bees to do well over the warm spring and summer months and survive the winter. Bob has hives in Richmond Hill, Springfield, Bluffton and Effingham County; about 50,000 bees make up each hive.
Even more, Bob knows that few people fail to appreciate the taste of all-natural honey made by the hard-working, buzzing busybodies. Having a very relevant job, honey bees are some of the most important pollinators. Often used by farmers to pollinate crops, bees are much of the reason that there is an abundance of healthy, delectable fruits and vegetables to enjoy.
As they extract nectar, worker bees fertilize flowers and plants by collecting pollen from each of them and dispersing it onto others; some of the pollen is taken back to the hive and used as food for the brood. Back at the hive, the nectar is transferred from one bee to another, mixing with a special enzyme in their mouths. The bees then store the honey in a collection of wax cells (a honeycomb) that they seal with beeswax; each hive may contain several honeycombs. The bees often fan their wings; this reduces the moisture in the hive, allowing the honey to cure.
Bob is equipped to remove the honeycombs to extract and harvest the honey. He usually leaves the bees with an ample supply to last them throughout the winter months.
Bob gets some of his honey in the springtime, mid-summer and fall when a variety of flowers are in bloom; the honey usually takes the flavor of the flower’s nectar from which it came.
“Some people take honey at the end of the year only. I take it in spring, summer and fall … the honey is wonderful. The flavor can be so different depending on when it’s taken,” he said.
What is more, Bob not only appreciates the bees for their enormous efforts, but he respects them.
“They really don’t bother you until you try to get the honey from their hive; then, you had better be suited up,” he added. He encourages prospective beekeepers to acquire all the proper equipment needed to ensure their safety and success.
Further, Bob believes in environmental responsibility; he understands that problems like pollution, deforestation and monoagriculture can have detrimental effects on the environment.
“Often, each thing we do to attempt to improve society creates yet another problem. I love the simple life. That’s why I like working with bees—a most poetic animal. In the mornings, I can just sit and watch them working. To me, it’s poetry. When I see a jar of honey, I see summer … I see the millions of flowers it took for bees to create that pound of honey,” he stated.
Bob has written various poems regarding environmental issues and awareness; he is greatly inspired by the late Henry David Thoreau, a poet, essayist and philosopher who promoted environmental awareness and believed in appreciating the simplicity of life.
Bob’s love and respect for nature led him to create his brand of all-natural and organic products—Poet’s Blend. It is reflective of his fondness of poetry and his love for the environment, especially for the honey bee.
Bob offers an array of remarkable organic products--pure, delicately aromatic and made from nature’s own essential oils. These include: soft and silky-smooth soaps (made with real honey), invigorating bath salts (made from Dead Sea salt), moisturizing body scrubs (made with coffee and honey for skin hydration), beeswax candles and various other items. Bob, of course, offers his delicious, all-natural honey.
“If it were not for bees, everything would be artificial. I wanted the simplicity of nature and bees incorporated into my products,” he said.
Many of Bob’s products are sold at spas and retailers in parts of Effingham, Pooler, Richmond Hill and St. Augustine, including Pooler Day Spa and Bashlor’s Craft & Farmer’s Market; he sometimes sells products right outside of Randall’s Beverage Center. Information about Poet’s Blend can be found at www.poetsblend.com and on Facebook and Instagram.
Bob Zappacosta has certainly turned his love and appreciation for bees into something phenomenally worthwhile. He is putting the buzz out for bee awareness.
Photo Gallery Credit: Michelle Holloway Photography
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