About 50,000 bees live on the roof of a home in Near Northeast, and more are on the way.
The locals behind the company H Street Honey are preparing for the summer season and expect to sell their products at a growing number of businesses along the H Street corridor and on Capitol Hill.
“We’ll probably have 100,000 bees this summer,” co-owner Gavin Cepelak said. “We’re looking to expand our hives and just keep growing and growing.”
H Street Organic Market sold jars of the honey last year ($15 per 9 ounce jar), Bullfrog Bagels drizzled it on bagels topped with goat cheese, and the new shop Hunnybunny Boutique sold soap made with it. Now, the couple is talking with local restaurants about using the product, and with “one of the kitchen incubators,” Cepelak said.
“Everything is natural. It’s filtered of any wax or pollen,” Cepelak said about the honey made by Italian bees. “You can eat it right out of the hive.”
Honey made by city bees tastes different from the honey produced by their rural counterparts, Cepelak said.
“Urban honey is so diverse because it pulls from so many diverse resources,” he said. “The bees aren’t just sitting in a blueberry field or a cornfield … These bees are feeding in the Botanic Garden, the local community garden, the flowers. They have a concentrated salad bar.”
Cepelak, 33, and his wife, Raquel Sherman, first put beehives on the roof of the home they own three years ago. It began as a hobby after Cepelak saw a documentary about beekeeping. Then, the couple launched their business last summer.
The honey is sold out now but should be back in stores and restaurants soon. The limited product can only be harvested once or twice a year and is usually sold out by November.
The entrepreneurs will pick up a shipment of more bees next week. The insects are being trucked from California to Stafford, Virginia, and will arrive in three-pound packages of 10,000 bees each.
Cepelak said his neighbors haven’t really noticed that he suits up in a beekeeper’s glove and hood on his rooftop.
“People don’t look up,” he said.
Photos courtesy of H Street Honey