With the awareness of the somewhat bleak plight of honey bees growing among the public, it’s no surprise that there is a growing interest in beekeeping. From hobbyists to experts, you’d be surprised at the variety of people who are falling in love with pollinators. Only in Asheville, North Carolina could such a strange and wonderful hobby become the passion and livelihood of one of its residents. Debra Roberts, an internationally known bee speaker & honey whisperer, and her husband, who I’m told has an amazing organic garden, are chemical-free bee keepers with a unique take on the relationship between bees and human beings. Holy Bee Press, the website devoted to their bees, offers some wonderful information and resources about bees and their life philosophy on compassionate bee stewarding.

So how does one get into bee stewarding? A health scare in 2004 left Debra examining her life and she slowly turned her energies away from documentary film-making to beekeeping. Her extremely zen attitude toward the ups and downs in life is a real inspiration and seems to apply to all facets of her life. “What life hands you is ours to be handed,” she said about a recent house fire. It seemed like the hands of fate conspired to push her toward beekeeping and, fitting with her accepting attitude toward fate, she moved into the field with passion and enthusiasm.

Like a large portion of Asheville residents, Debra was always into chemical-free living so when fate steered her in the direction of beekeeping, it only made sense that she applied that lifestyle to her bees. “The bees are my gurus,” she said, a smile in her voice.  Living in the first city to be declared as Bee City, USA by the national nonprofit under the same name definitely helps further her beekeeping aims. When walking downtown, notice the shops with the honey bee decals on the windows. Those are the shops who are either supportive of beekeeping or have products made from local beekeepers. It’s like a fun hide-and-seek for bee products. Try it out for yourself. “It has become a movement,” Debra said.

If you’re in the Asheville area and have a love of bees, beekeeping, or share in the belief that the profound relationship between bees and people go to an almost spiritual level, you might want to shoot Debra an email and pick her brain on the subject of which she’s an expert. Available by appointment only, her hives are open to exploration and she welcomes conversations from novices, like yours truly, and fellow experts alike. Donations are appreciated for her time but it’s totally worth being able to consult with one of the most fascinating experts on bee husbandry I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking with.