July 2023

The Birds and The Bees

Nature abounds at the Foltz residence. Over the past 19 years, Rich and Barb have been developing a unique property that backs up to a peaceful pond. As bird lovers, they welcome ducks, geese, osprey, hawks, wrens, cardinals, blue jays and the snowy white egret (Rich’s favorite). The couple often view them from this Stone Garden glider, itself adorned with Herons. 

“Our back yard is our sanctuary. We have an eclectic garden that offers a lot. We like Costa Rica, and our yard reflects that.”

Twenty-four mature Sabal palms and five Pindo “Jelly” palms surround their pool, interspersed with colorful potted plants. An elevated vegetable garden produces an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, turnips, Swiss chard, and cucumbers; sumptuous fruit includes blackberries, pineapples, limes, watermelons, and African kahari melon.  

In the courtyard, the Zen Frog, with legs crossed, meditates to the cheerful trickling of a nearby fountain. His presence is truly fitting, as Barb is a yoga instructor and Rich is known as the “Frog Whisperer”.  Over the years he has rescued and resuscitated many of the green tree frogs, bullfrogs and NC toads that wander up from the pond into the swimming pool. 

Hummingbirds visit regularly, enticed by the Culphea and Mexican petunia planted to attract them. Other flowers abound, like this remarkable Gloriosa Lilly, a volunteer that appeared amongst the greenery several years ago and regularly returns.  

This beloved Australian cockatiel, named Tripper Dude, shared this paradise with the Foltz family since he was six weeks old. After thirty-four wonderful years, he gained his forever wings, leaving the couple with an empty nest.  They soon discovered a new passion.   

While attending a local festival, Rich and Barb met a woman named Jessy O’Keefe.  Her business, Seaside Honeybees, offers a concierge beehive service.  Intrigued with the idea, Rich and Barb signed up. 

A hive of 10,000 bees was installed on the SW side of their home in March 2023 and Palm Blossom Farms was born. Now the sweetest treat lies just around the corner and the buzz beckons. A stone pathway leads to the honey ahead.  

A four-story bee castle houses the workers as they worship their Queen and work their magic. 

“They’ve created a little bee highway up and over the roof.  It’s fascinating to watch them fly in and out.”

Rich and Barb joined the New Hanover County Beekeeper’s Association (NHCBA) where Barb gained her State Certification. Through Seaside Honeybees’ Mentorship Program, they receive instruction, assistance, and advice for maintaining the colony. 

“It’s so rewarding doing it ourselves. There’s much to learn.”

Through the NHCBA they meet with other beekeepers once a month, some of whom have been beekeeping for 40 years.  The club is lucky to have a Master Craftsmen who has achieved the highest of the four levels of beekeeping education. 

The Foltz’s excitement about this new passion is palpable and contagious.

“The society of these collaborative creatures is amazing. I’m reading all about their hierarchy in the book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Dyer Seeley. It’s a great resource.”

Barb and Rich are enjoying getting to know their 70,000 new friends and the rewards are truly sweet.  

Their first run of honey has been jarred and labelled. Knowing that bees love palm blossoms, they are hoping to see a second run later this year.   

Watch as they share theifirst honey harvest in this video

Palm Blossom Farms has been shared with friends, including Nina, who has already opened the jar and just couldn’t resist the awesome flavor. 

“It’s cool to have all this in an urban area. We’re very lucky life is full of birds and bees.”

According to the USDA, bees pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants and about 75 percent of the nuts, fruits, and vegetables Americans eat. North Carolina is home to more than 500 native bee species.

If you’re interested in beekeeping as a hobby, Jessy O’Keefe can help. You can find her at Seaside Honeybees.

For information about New Hanover County Beekeeper’s Association (NHCBA), click here.

BEE-lieve it or not; beekeeping can help with PTSD. Veterans’ groups are exploring the therapeutic effects of beekeeping on anxiety. Click here to learn more.

In North Carolina, species like purple coneflower, bee balm, great blue lobelia, and goldenrod thrive in gardens and provide food and habitat for native pollinators. If you want to plant a pollinator garden in support of the local bee population here are some great resources:

Planting a Bee-Friendly Garden

A list of Northern American nectar sources for honeybees. Click here to learn more.

Ecoregional Planting Guides

Click here to learn more.