A famous saying goes, “ the hum of a bee is the voice of the garden.” This simple saying captures the immeasurable importance of bees to human survival as they safeguard the global food supply by pollinating more than 80 percent of commercial crops such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables while providing high-quality food like honey and royal jelly, among others. But unfortunately, these little creatures are often misunderstood and sought to be exterminated. Thankfully, apiarist Eli the Bee Guy provides a better alternative by rescuing bees and relocating them, thus saving humanity one colony at a time.
Growing up, Ilya Barkanov, better known as Eli the Bee Guy, did not like bees. To put it simply, like many people, he was terrified of them, but he had a friend who kept bees and became curious about the beautiful buzzing creatures. So finally, at 15, Eli gave in to his curiosity and took his first step into the adventurous world of beekeeping. The budding apiarist joined his friend and started tending to bees wearing a bee suit, but the protective clothing did not save him from the vicious bee stings. “I thought I would be safe in a bee suit, but that wasn’t the case. I got stung by bees that day, a lot!” he shared.
Unknown to him, his friend kept the notorious Africanized killer bees because nobody wanted them due to their aggression. Covered in stings and sores, Eli fell in love with bees, fascinated by their process, organization, and design. “Something about bees, in general, gave off a peaceful vibe,” he said. He became so interested in the beautiful creatures that he made it his mission to learn everything he could about them. He read every book about bees in the library, educating himself until he convinced his parents that he could be a responsible beekeeper.
However, after his fated experience with the killer bees, he decided he wanted “nicer” bees, so his parents bought him the docile Italian bees as his first bee colony. After that, he would own over 100 colonies and rent them to an orchard in northern California. Eventually, the rigorous demand of the job got to the determined teenager, who soon quit. At the same time, his friend, who had kept the killer bees, got a side gig of relocating beehives out of people’s roofs, walls, trees, cars, and anything with an opening.
With his friend, Eli the Bee Guy started relocating bees from unwanted places to local beekeepers who could adequately care for them. Additionally, he uses his platform to educate people on the importance of bees to food crops and human survival in general. “Every day, I aim to educate people about the importance of honeybees. They are responsible for almost 85% of our crops, and taking bees out of the equation takes us out too. Bees struggle with pesticides, climate change, drought, disease, and many more. Exterminating them doesn’t help them,” he says.
Describing his process, Eli shared: “I open walls, roofs, trees, and anywhere bees made a home, I pull all the honeycomb out and place it in a box and gently scoop bees into the box and leave the box for a few days to allow the bees to fully settle after which I relocate the entire box to a beekeeper who will care for the rest.”
By turning his teenage passion into his full-time job, Eli the Bee Guy hopes to educate more people on the importance of bees and help them find ways to remove them safely. “We need bees, and I’m here to show that there are better alternatives to extermination. Save the Bees!”
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