MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Mandy Bass is as busy as a bee these days—literally! In addition to her real estate career, she is also a hobbyist beekeeper.
“My father, Henry Parker, is responsible for my beekeeping hobby,” says Bass, a sales associate with ERA Grizzard Real Estate in Mount Dora and a member of the Realtors® Association of Lake & Sumter Counties. Parker, who died in 2013 at the age of 93, was a commercial beekeeper.
“He started out with 35 hives and worked his way up to 300 hives. At first, he sold to other commercial honey bottlers, but then decided to bottle and sell his honey, branded as Henry Parker’s Sweet Thing Honey Plantation,” she says.
While Bass is fascinated with beekeeping, she isn’t doing it on a commercial scale, although she does sell the honey that she bottles at Renniger’s Flea Market in Mount Dora. She’s had up to 40 hives at one time but currently is down to just a few.
“I had six hives at my dad’s house, and we use those to collect pollen. However, the bears got into them and destroyed them,” she says.
Much like real estate, she says, being a beekeeper is more involved than one might think. She explains that there are things you must do to get the honey you want.
“For instance, if you want Orange Blossom honey, you must deliver your bees to the orange grove just as the orange bloom is about to open and monitor them as they take the nectar from the flower,” she says. “After the bloom has run its course, the bees need to be taken out of the orange grove and moved to the next honey flow, such as Gallberry or Palmetto, which bloom in March and April.”
Also, growing a full hive isn’t as easy as it looks. Bees typically swarm in the spring and summer. Bass keeps in touch with an apiary store (a store that collects and sells bees).
“When a homeowner calls the store to tell them that the bees are swarming on his or her property, someone [from the store] will try to retrieve the swarm, put them in a clean box and grow a full hive,” she says. “It’s challenging as they don’t always want to stay in that box! Plus, there’s a lot to do with keeping a beehive alive.”
During the fall and winter months, bees must be fed. “You can buy corn syrup to feed them,” she explains.
As a hobbyist, Bass doesn’t mess with Orange Blossom, Gallberry or Palmetto honey.
“I leave the bees in one spot collecting in about a two-mile radius. It’s called wildflower honey,” she says. She will collect about two cases, or 24 jars to sell at the flea market.
She also collects the pollen to sell. “Bee pollen is as seasonal as honey. It’s great for people with seasonal allergies,” she says.
For Bass, it’s about carrying on a family tradition.
“As a child, I loved to hang out with my dad. The property (in Eustis) that my father owned is still in the family. We use his equipment and keep our bees on his property,” she says.
In addition, her sister, Jeanie Lombardi is also a Realtor® and beekeeper. And, while Bass is passionate about beekeeping, she is just as passionate about real estate.
“When you are dealing with a person’s home and their money, it can be very stressful and emotional. It’s clear to me that a large part of my job is to be a problem solver.”
Whether it’s bees or real estate, it’s clear that Bass loves what she does.