Basking Bee Farm has Soós pulling in harvest
LOVETTSVILLE, Va. — While most farmers are focused on planting their crops in May, beekeeper Todd Soós just started his harvest season. as a beekeeper in northern Loudoun County.
Soós and his wife, Stephanie, own and operate Basking Bee Farm and apiary in Loudoun County. The farm includes about 10 acres of land, with a secondary site near the Appalachian Trail.
“The hives are ramping up now,” Todd said. “The autumn olive trees in the area are very productive in producing nectar. So are the black locust trees. The first harvest of honey starts in early May. We usually do two to three large harvests of honey each year, with several smaller harvests as well.”
The farm includes about 25 to 30 colonies of bees that produce honey for the farm’s operations.
Soós’ bees produced about 1,200 pounds of honey in 2022.
“We store the honey in a bulk container and then bottle it,” Todd said, adding different containers are used, including 4- and 8-ounce bottles. “We sell the bottles of honey directly from the farm as well as at events, markets and fairs in the region.”
The farm also produces honey packaged as wedding and business favors.
“These favors are usually in one-and-a-half-ounce or 3-ounce bottles,” he said. “We print our own labels, so we have the flexibility to customize our bottles.”
Keeping the hives protected from wildlife is one of Todd’s biggest challenges, he said.
“Skunks do like visiting the boxes,” he said. “The skunks naturally eat insects. They will scratch the boxes to encourage the bees to come out. The skunks then eat the bees.”
Electric fencing secures the area around the hives. The fencing serves as a deterrent to skunks, black bears and other predator-type animals.
Blocks are used at the entrances to the boxes to keep out mice.
In addition to producing honey for sale, Basking Bee Farm also has 30 “nucleus” colonies that the farm is developing for sale to other beekeepers.
“There are typically three different ways that people gather bees,” Todd said. “An individual can catch a swarm of bees. People can buy a package of bees — 3 to 6 pounds of bees, for example. Or people can purchase a nuc colony that is ready on day one.”
Todd said most of his customers for nuc colonies are local beekeepers in Loudoun County.
Todd said he has been fascinated by beekeeping since and one of his family’s neighbors raised bees. But it wasn’t until adulthood, with a growing family of his own, that he decided to start beekeeping himself.
He took courses through the Loudoun County Beekeepers Association and managed six to eight hives consistently for about eight years.
“I was doing the beekeeping more for the enjoyment during this time,” he said.
Since 2016, he’s increased the number of colonies and managed them as a commercial enterprise.
Bees aren’t Todd and Stephanie’s only livestock on the farm. They also have about 40 laying hens and a small herd of beef cattle.
“The cattle are grass-raised, grass-fed. We have Angus, Highland and Holstein in our herd.”
Todd said the cattle are sold to customers in wholes, halves and quarters; the farm strives to sell the beef before slaughtering the animals.
He said the beekeeping venture is self-sustaining and fits his life as a supplement to his full-time job in cybersecurity, a field he has worked in for 20 years. Looking to the future, he sees beekeeping as something that will keep him active in his retirement years.
He also sees a role for him and others involved in beekeeping to educate people about ways to enhance the environment.
“People can do many things to help save bees,” he said. “Reductions in the use of pesticides and herbicides would help the honey bees as well as the native bees — there’s about 400 types of native bees in our area.
“Rather than mowing all of their property, people could reduce the size of their grass lawns to create islands of respite for bees. Many don’t know that some of the bees live underground and may be near the ground much of the time. Cutting lawns can endanger these bees.”