From Callaway County to Miller County, the Hardesty family beekeeping lineage is strong. With hundreds of pounds of honey produced and hours upon hours of hive maintenance completed, the work continues to bring fresh, delicious honey to the lake.

From Callaway County to Miller County, the Hardesty family beekeeping lineage is strong. With hundreds of pounds of honey produced and hours upon hours of hive maintenance completed, the work continues to bring fresh, delicious honey to the lake.

Travis Hardesty and his family moved to Eldon in the spring of 2012. The home has a large, open field in the backyard which he hoped to utilize fully. His son Noah decided that, for his project in FFA, he wanted to continue on with the family tradition of beekeeping, which was originally founded in Callaway County. Being familiar with the process, Hardesty helped him start the work and took over once Noah had graduated. He hasn’t looked back since. 

Hardesty Honey & Apiary now resides in Eldon and was able to produce enough honey in 2018 to start selling in batches. Hardesty says that year yielded around 500 pounds of honey, which was enough to bottle and showcase at local markets. Alongside honey, the business was able to sell 25 starter colonies of bees to new and aspiring beekeepers. 

Back in Callaway County, Hardesty’s family had created a bee co-op of around 20 hives and nine families. Resources were pooled together and the co-op was able to produce plenty of honey to go around. Hardesty’s father was his mentor at the time, which has now translated to the mentoring Hardesty provided for Noah. 

“We developed our own way of beekeeping and kept discovering new things,” Hardesty said.

Hardesty says one of the biggest learning curves for new beekeepers is how to keep your colonies alive through the colder months of the year. With bees coming from Texas, Alabama and other southern states, they are not initially acclimated to the climate of Midwest states. To counteract this, Hardesty says they stopped importing colonies and instead capturing what he calls “survivor stock”. This involved them capturing swarms of bees that are local to the environment.  Once this was implemented into their strategy, he says the winter losses became negligible. 

One of the larger issues facing beekeepers are varroa mites, a parasite that is considered by many to be the most serious malady of honey bees. These parasites plague the commercial industry, which is passed on into hobbyist colonies as well. The parasites cause many bees to die as they feed on their blood. 

Even with the more challenging factors weighing in, Hardesty still finds absolute joy in the process of harvesting honey. He says that most mornings start with a cup of coffee, breakfast and you’re in the shop by 6:30 a.m. Tools and equipment for the hives have to be gathered and readied for the day. Then, the trek begins. 

Hardesty works on his hives in a circuit, as they are not all centrally located in a single location. One colony stays at home for personal consumption, with 10 locations total to tend to. His theory in this strategy is to limit exposure of various hive problems and to allow for each hive to flourish in their own respective areas. 

“There’s a limited amount of forage in any given place,” Hardesty said. “So if I put too many hives in, the hives will produce enough for themselves, but not excess. I want honey that comes from the native forage, so I put my hives in those kind of locations.” 

Leaving at 9:00 a.m., Hardesty will have completed his circuit around the hives by 1:00 p.m. Each hive flavor is different, and the honey that comes from each location is harvested, packed and labeled differently to distinguish the differences. He says that customers have become used to the different types of honey available and have started to request specific hive products for their purposes. 

As the business continues to grow, one of the ongoing projects at his home is developing a mobile honey harvesting station that Hardesty is building out of an old food truck. The station has materials inside to ready buckets of honey for sale. By making it mobile, Hardesty is able to ease the process around the many hives he has to attend to. 

Hardesty says that he has grown to love the hard work and dirty nature of beekeeping. He says that, in a lifetime, one could never learn all there is to know about bees. Adapting to the various temperaments of each hive mind Hardesty describes as like learning the personality of any household pet. This is something that he says comes slowly, but is deeply rooted in his enjoyment of the hobby. 
  
“As a cow farmer, you get to know your cows. As a beekeeper, you get to know your hives. It’s the same thing, really,” Hardesty said. 

Hardesty Honey and Apiary can be found on Facebook and the honey products for sale, which include 1 pound squeeze bottle, 3 pound glass jars and more, can be found at lake farmers markets including the ones found in Eldon and Osage Beach.