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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Many days, Kris Hurlbert’s business is literally buzzing with activity.

This is a good thing since his more than 2 million employees have a tendency to be a bit flighty.

Nevertheless, Hurlbert is as content with his workforce as they are with him. With more than 40 hives with around 60,000 bees a piece, he realizes the marketplace can be sweet but he acknowledges it can also sting likes the dickens.

More than six years ago, Hurlbert began producing raw, unfiltered honey at his home in rural Sioux City. Deciding to go into business, he named the company Ollie’s Little Honey Bees, after his son Oliver, who is now 5.

“I want to eventually pass the business down to Oliver and his 2-year-old sister Agnes,” he told the Sioux City Journal . “You’re never too young to start acquiring a good work ethic.”

Perhaps the two can look to honeybees for inspiration.

“The lifespan of honeybees is typically about 40 days and they literally work themselves to death,” Hurlbert explained.

The typical day in the life of a honeybee consists of visiting a flower and gathering nectar — a sugar-rich liquid produced in the glands of many plants.

Nectar can keep a colony of bees alive in the winter. But, when left alone, nectar can ferment. This is why bees turn the nectar into honey.

This requires a whole lot of teamwork.

From the worker bees searching for nectar-rich flowers to the hive bees that turned it into honey, all have an important job to perform.

And how much honey can a single bee produce in its lifetime? About one-twelfth of a teaspoon.

That’s why operations like Hurlbert’s require so many hive and so many bees.

“Each year, we increase the number of hives we have,” he said. “First, we had one. The next year, we had four. After that, 12. Now, we have 40.”

Hurlbert said the 40 hives is manageable.

“We don’t want the business to grow too big,” Hurlbert said.

After all, Ollie’s Little Honey Bee was created as a way to teach his kids the importance of hard work.

So, how is that working out?

“We sell Ollie’s Little Honey Bees products at both the Marketplace and Southern Hills Mall Hy-Vee stores,” Hurlbert said. “Oliver loves to tell people it’s his name on the label.”

Likewise, Agnes is intrigued by the buzzing little hive dwellers.

“Yeah, they’ve been bitten before,” Hurlbert said. “But I’ve been bitten a lot more.”

Watching over his hives in mid-September, Hurlbert knows it is getting close to the end of honey-making season.

“Bees are most productive in July and August, when the days are hot and sunny,” he said. “By September, they aren’t quite so active.”

That just means Hurlbert will have more time to sample the handiwork of some honeybees.

“I love sweetening my morning coffee with a spoonful of honey,” he said.

Hurlbert said he also enjoys honey on grilled meat.

“There’s something wonderful about pure honey. You can really taste the difference.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal,