By Carol Mowdy Bond
A proactive and ingenious entrepreneur, Justin Scott tailors his raw Oklahoma honey and bee pollen production so that it’s hyper local for those seeking truly local bee products for health or taste preferences. He’s quick to tell you that bee pollen is a super food, and the body can live on pollen alone. Whereas there are hidden pesticides in most honey and bee pollen, you won’t find that in Scott’s Sweet Stingers Honey & Apiary products.
Sales of Sweet Stingers products have remained great. And as for COVID-19’s impact on Sweet Stingers, just due to the nature of bee keeping, Scott said, “We’ve been social distancing before the pandemic hit. We’re isolated already as it is.”
A highly energetic, native Oklahoman, the 30-something Scott is a private landscaper. But his hobby, as a self-proclaimed urban beekeeper, is a family affair. Scott’s Sweet Stingers has only been in business for four years. But he, his wife Melissa who is a school teacher, and 9-year-old daughter Lexi and 7-year-old son Lucas, already have 200 hives installed on 33 yards and acreages and ranches and farms in 18 Oklahoma cities in eight counties and four of the state’s regions.
Scott said, “Each yard is extracted and kept separate and never combined with other yards.” And Sweet Stingers is about to install their bees on yet another Canadian County acreage to pollinate the owner’s vegetable garden and fruit trees. Among all those hives, Lexi and Lucas have their own hives, maintain their own bees, and harvest and sell their own honey.
“This is a very family business,” Scott said. “We have very local honey. I keep each area’s honey separate from the other, and we have our honey bottles coded by yard and area. Some people eat their area’s honey for health reasons. But honey from one area tastes differently than honey from another area. Some people just buy it for taste because they like the taste of a certain area’s honey.”
WHAT’S ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT
“We have followers, mostly on Instagram, but also on Facebook,” Scott said. “And 90% of our sales come through social media. We let our followers know when we have their area’s honey read to buy, and when we’ll be in their area. We deliver, and they meet us at a certain location. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. We have very local honey broken down into areas, such as north and south Piedmont, north and south Mustang, Edmond, Arcadia, Oklahoma City, and so forth.”
“We’ve even worked with chefs, putting hives on top of their restaurants so they can have local honey on their menus,” Scott said.
Standing firm on the concept that bees are scarce these days, but very necessary, Scott focuses on local pollination of plants and keeps an eye on bees and butterflies.
Scott said, “We don’t charge to install the hives on someone’s property. We’re in it to get pollinators out there. And we take care of everything. We set it up. And we maintain everything. We look for year-round, long-term placement locations. If I place my bees, I don’t teach people to be beekeepers. My family does all the work. In return, the property owners get some of their own honey and they get pollinators. But they don’t have to do anything. Some of our property owners never even see us. But I always notify them before going onto their property to take care of their hives.”
“On our Facebook page each Friday, Melissa gives a recipe made with honey,” Scott said. “On Thursdays, we tell about a pollination plant that is blooming. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I give educational information.”
“We didn’t do it for the money,” Scott said. “We did it because there’s a need for honey. We live in a residential neighborhood with a regular-size backyard. We only have two hives in our backyard. Everyone doesn’t like bees. So we don’t put a massive number of hives on any property. All your neighbors won’t want a lot of bees. In the springtime, they can get up to 80,000 bees in a hive. “
“We make money by selling honey, bee pollen, bees, and queen bees,” Scott said.
SEARCHING FOR BEE-ASIER ANSWERS
Sweet Stingers took flight due to Lucas’ allergies. On way too many allergy meds at age 3, the Scotts searched for other answers. They began giving Lucas a tablespoon of their backyard honey and bee pollen each day. He went off all his meds, and his allergies were gone. At that point, the Scotts realized they were onto something, and it spread by word of mouth. In fact, to this day, they don’t advertise. People follow them through social media. And now all 4 Scott family members take a tablespoon each of honey and pollen each day.
IN THE BEE-GINNING
“My grandfather was a beekeeper, and my dad was a farmer in Luther,” Scott said. “My mom’s family had gardens and kept bees. I’m an Eagle Scout, and I began keeping bees in Boy Scouts. And my grandfather taught me everything. I had my own bees by the time I was 11 years old. I’ve been doing this for 28 years. And the first year Melissa and I were married, my grandfather came over and helped us put in a garden. And he said we had to have bees to pollinate the garden.”
A LOTTA BEE-LIEVERS
“Oklahoma’s average annual crop is about 37 pounds of honey per hive,” Scott said. “Most people don’t know there are 300 different flavors of honey in the U.S. There’s even buckwheat honey.”
Scott said, “ I’ve been asked to go into commercial pollination, and I’ve been asked to take my bees out of Oklahoma. But my vision is hyper local honey from all over Oklahoma. I work with Oklahoma farmers and ranchers and property owners. We’re always looking for different Oklahoma properties where we’ll put our hives. I want to have hives in all seven of Oklahoma’s regions and as many counties as possible. My main goal is providing real, raw Oklahoma honey in a sustainable way, not using pesticides. We harvest responsibly by taking a small harvest, and leaving honey on the hives for the bees. We are a pesticide free operation, meaning if the bees don’t bring it into the hive, we do not add it. We do not use organic or synthetic pesticides to treat our hives. And our goal is to open a honey shop one day.”
“We run out of our bee products. So, the best way to know where we are, what area we are harvesting, when products are available, and just fun educational information, is through social media,” Scott said.
Connect with Sweet Stingers on Instagram at sweetstingerok, and Facebook at Sweet Stingers Honey & Apiary, or by calling or texting (405) 323-6103.