Photo by Jeylin White
Rodney Lane, owner of Buster’s Bees, opens a hive where honeybees are busy making honey.
Handling thousands of swarming insects is not for everybody. But for Henry County residents Rodney Lane and his wife, Fran, tending to 85,000 buzzing honeybees is a joy — and profitable.
“This is something we love to do,” said Rodney, a tall, white-haired man.
The Delta Air Lines mechanic and his wife own a honey business called “Buster’s Bees,” and for 18 years have sold their homemade honey to several Southern Crescent citizens and businesses.
Rodney handles the bees, and is so comfortable with them, he doesn’t mind being stung repeatedly. Fran, his honey of 38 years, is more comfortable handling the marketing. Their honey is sold at Swint’s Feed and Garden Supply in Jonesboro, local flea markets, and from their home.
But before Buster’s Bees bloomed into a thriving business, Rodney said raising honeybees was just a hobby and a way for him to relieve stress. He said it started with two bee hives that he purchased for his backyard. During the afternoons, he would pull up a chair, sit between the hives and watch the bees work.
“They’re just very, very, interesting creatures,” he said. “People think insects are not intelligent, but honeybees are very social.”
Fran said her husband’s pastime was an opportunity to make a little extra money on the side.
“One day I just wanted some honey,” said Fran, while laughing. “Then people started asking us for honey and I told Buster I don’t want to give them my honey. So I told him you have got to go get more bees.”
And he did. Several years later, the couple has more than 40 hives, producing 100-percent pure honey.
“Real honey just tastes better,” Rodney said. “The business has just grown tremendously. We sell more and more honey every year.”
Their honey is unprocessed, never heated or pasteurized, with minimal straining. Rodney said heating the honey kills the natural flavor and all the beneficial enzymes and vitamins that honey contains. Honey, he said, is good not only for eating and spreading on hot, buttered biscuits, but can be used for sore throats and general cold symptoms.
“It’s the only insect that makes food for man,” said Rodney. “There’s just so much you can use honey for,” he said.
He said his fascination with honeybees began as a little boy when his grandfather, who gave him the nickname “Buster,” started harvesting bees. He watched his grandfather handle the bees but never had the opportunity to work with him.
“My grandfather was a farmer and a carpenter,” he said. “People didn’t have money to pay him, so they would pay him with bees.” He added as a little boy he became increasingly curious about the insect and when he got older he purchased a home with plenty of property and decided to make his life-long dream of raising honeybees a reality.
“I love what I do and people come from all over to buy our honey,” said Rodney.
The couple said honeybees are man’s best friend.
“We have the honeybees to thank for one-third of the food we eat,” he said. “If you eat honey every day it will help build up your immune system against pollen.”
It all starts with the queen bee who can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. He said they are physically different from other bees and are fed a mixture of royal jelly.
“This allows their ovaries to develop so she can become fertile,” said Rodney.
He said most of the workers are females, but they are fed a different diet that does not allow their ovaries to develop. The male bees, he added are mainly used for their sperm.
Rodney said the queen bee is slightly larger and longer in size and has more curves. To identify the queen, he marks their backs with a yellow dot. Each hive, he said, has a queen.
When it’s time to extract the honey from the hive, he said he must be extra careful not to disturb the bees or smash their backs, to keep from getting stung. But after handling bees for more than 20 years bee stings don’t really seem to faze him as much.
“I get stung all the time,” he said jovially. “My body is immune.”
He even allows himself to get stung on his finger to show what comes out of the bee — a slimy, orange substance.
“But when a honeybee stings you, they die,” he said.
Not only do they sell honey but bees, too. “He is a certified bee keeper,” said Fran.
Rodney suggests those who are interested in raising bees should visit one of the four bee clubs offered throughout Metro Atlanta. “He teaches all the classes,” said Fran. “He shows people how to take care of the bees.”
For more information about the business and the bee clubs, visit www.BustersBees.com.