The famous Tampa Bay beekeeper at TikTok thrives on sweat and honey

ST. PETERSBURG-First things first: If the bees get angry, is it a stand-still situation, like when a wild bear is met? Or is it a run situation?

“It ran,” said Elisha Bixler, who slipped on a beekeeping jacket and veil. “Just run.”

He would, at times, have to run.

Bee colonies can kill, and some are so aggressive that they cannot be rescued during the evacuation of homes. But many bees have no interest in us. Having settled on the walls and ducts and compost bins, they can be transferred to an apiary, where they will make honey and pollinate the local flora.

That’s where Bixler comes in, energetic and brave, recording videos on a cell phone clogged with so much honey, it just works on the speaker.

In a recent bee removal job, he climbed a staircase outside a vacant St. Louis restaurant. Pete Beach and hung a crowbar in the soffit. The bees dripped.

“Right now they look great,” Bixler said. “They are not in my face. Oh, I have a few approaching me. ”

Elisha Bixler pulls out a portion of the hive as she performs beekeeping outside an empty restaurant in St. Louis. Pete Beach. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Bixler, 38, is a St. Petersburg mother of three developed a new interest in a bee removal and honey business called How’s Your Day Honey. He moved unwanted bees to his eight apiaries around Florida.

He is famous for TikTok. A video of Bixler holding a ball of bees attacking their queen went viral with 5.6 million views. Another of his faces a 7-foot nest on a St. Petersburg shower had 3.5 million views and he went to The New York Times via Fox 13. He had interest, he said, from producers at Magnolia Network and National Geographic.

For people who are conditioned to be afraid of bees and women, it’s all surprising. Bixler, 5-foot-2, dulcet-voiced and willowy, is not what they expected to come with jigsaws. They asked, where is his wife? He was regularly sexually harassed while swarmed by bees (guys, really?).

Some people are even incensed at his removal fees. Her online world looks dreamy, super aesthetic, super farmy. Why would he pay to play bees?

“They just think I’m packing hundreds of pounds of honey, even without considering all the layers,” he said. “I don’t know very many wealthy beekeepers.”

Elisha Bixler with her collection of bees and hives at one of her apiaries in Terra Ceia.
Elisha Bixler with her collection of bees and hives at one of her apiaries in Terra Ceia. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Six years ago, Bixler saw nucleus colonies being sold on Facebook – tiny hives with bees at various stages of development – and bought them to make honey for his family. As he was digging a pond for his new bee friends, five stabbed him in the face. Her eyes were swollen. It took him a year to get rid of his fear.

Planning your weekend?

Planning your weekend?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter

We will post ideas every Thursday for going out, staying home or spending time outdoors.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

He found a mentor who would teach him about removal, get the right equipment and a beekeeping license. He paid honey farmers to put boxes on their property. He limits the size and location of his apiaries so as not to catch local bees in the interlopers.

He realizes that honey colonies are nature’s magical superorganism, ecosystem masters, food chain leaders. Bees only live for six weeks, and they have a lot of resistance – mites, colony collapse disorders, chemicals. He wanted to help.

He sells honey online, at festivals and in St. Louis stores. Pete includes Old Southeast Market, The Hive and Pineapple Espresso. But he doesn’t lightly pick it up from the walls. Most honey from removal jobs goes in the trash, unless homeowners want it. Sometimes they do.

Elisha Bixler scratches honey from a nest in her apiary in Terra Ceia.
Elisha Bixler scratches honey from a nest in her apiary in Terra Ceia. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Bixler always starts his jobs with a bee veil. Most beekeepers develop bee-whisperer skills for habit. Insects, Bixler says, are more aggressive on harsh summer days, and when it’s cold and rainy.

If the bees are cold, he will remove the layers. Those who comment on the Internet are often horrified by it. Search for bee drama on #beetok and you’ll find Texas Beeworks keeper Erika Thompson, who has 10.5 million followers on TikTok. He was accused of fake videos, a notion he denounced, and promoting unsafe practices.

Bixler knew the bee backlash. He tries to post disclaimers and show aggressive bees along with the obedient ones. And, he clearly said, don’t try it at home.

Here’s why:

Bixler and two co -workers invited me to the removal inside the restaurant under construction. The property manager paid him $ 700 to move about 35,000 bees to the wall. Well, $ 700, plus the bees.

He decided there were two rashes, probably 12 feet apart. He fires a smoker to calm the bees. He pulled out a series of chunks of the hive and pressed fresh honey into the soffit, trying to make them familiar with the smell of the box they were going to carry.

Finding the queen is important. Without him, the nest dies. The queen looks bigger, more lethargic. The other bees surround him, fanning his pheromones around.

Elisha Bixler holds a bee and the queen bee (right) in one of her apiaries in Terra Ceia.
Elisha Bixler holds a bee and the queen bee (right) in one of her apiaries in Terra Ceia. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Bixler quickly found the first queen and moved her to a small cage. He added nurse bees to keep him fed.

“We got the queen so easily!” he says. “Very easy job!”

In the second nest. Honey poured from the soffit, soaking Bixler, swallowing his fingers. But before long, he noticed something strange. Not much, well … bees. Where are they?

He sprayed sweet almond oil, which the bees hated, which drove some off the wall. But they retreated.

Elisha Bixler pulls out a portion of a bee hive as she works on a beekeeping in St. Louis.  Pete Beach.
Elisha Bixler pulls out a portion of a bee hive as she works on a beekeeping in St. Louis. Pete Beach. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

He took a power tool from his truck. And this is the part that people don’t see in good videos. They couldn’t see the Bixler, covered in honey, sweat and mud, replacing saw blades, tearing the walls. A lot formed behind the door of the nearby Sherwin-Williams store.

He hurried into the restaurant in case the queen ran away. We saw swarms of bees in a cupboard.

“The queen!” he says.

Bixler lost the queen in chaos. He’s been hit dozens of times so far, pulling out stings like wild hair. When a bee trapped my shirt and struck my shoulder, Bixler jumped on me and pulled the stinger from my flesh, then returned to the search.

Back outside, Bixler climbed the stairs to look again. He jumped down. I was in the truck and checking my souvenir sting when I noticed he crumpled. He didn’t make a sound.

He stepped on a board with an exposed nail. It went through his boot.

“Can you pull it out?” he says. So, reader, I pulled a rusty nail out of his foot. Blood was dripping everywhere, bees buzzing around the scene. He rinsed his foot, wrapped it in paper towels and put the boot back on.

“Should I call someone?” I said.

“I’ll be back to find the queen.”

As his foot swelled and his adrenaline waned, he picked up his sticky phone to post Instagram stories of the hunt, which is now on hold.

Bixler got a tetanus shot, though scary with a needle. He returned the next day. The queen is still gone, possibly dead with her colony in turmoil. Bixler even found some honey and noticed something.

These are called supersedure cells. Tiny pocket bees were created to feed a baby royal jelly. They will make a new queen. The nest will live on one of Bixler’s sunny farms, continuing with the fascinating, tricky, critical will to do the job.

Related: Where is the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay?

Get Stephanie’s newsletter

For weekly bonus content and a look inside Stephanie Hayes ’columns, sign up for the free Stephinitely newsletter.

Previous Finnish fiber startup Spinnova saw revenue hit $6.31 million in 2021 – Sourcing Journal
Next "I compared plastic bags from Sainsbury's, Tesco, M&S, Lidl and Waitrose - there was a clear winner"