Lakewood Ranch land planner Bob Simons is single-handedly keeping East Manatee County’s bee population buzzing.
The air in Lakewood Ranch is thick with afternoon rain and stifling heat. Creatures everywhere are running for shelter. In The Lake Club, a luxury development east of Lorraine Road, residents are coming home from work, their wipers on high and their lights on low, steam rising up from the concrete. It’s 5:30 and everyone wants to be inside and dry, even the bees.
Bob Simons waits for a break between showers, steps out of his truck and into his bee garb. The ensemble is a cross between Hazmat suit and auto mechanic’s uniform: Dickies coveralls, white hood, requisite bee veil and goatskin gloves that don’t protect against stingers when they’re wet. He moves toward a four-foot-high bee box, a nondescript white dresser obscured by faux Tuscan scenery and a few rows of novelty grapevines. He lifts the lid. The bees come in drips and drabs.
“The girls aren’t too pissed,” he mutters through his veil. “I’m surprised. They don’t like rain or low-pressure weather.”
Like a dairy farmer talking about his cows, Simons refers to the bees as his girls, which is largely accurate. For every one male drone in the hive, there are 100 worker bees –– all of them female and none of them pleased about having their roof ripped off in the rain.
With the ease of an office worker pulling a manila folder out of a filing cabinet, Simons slides a hive frame out of the box and holds it out in front of him. The frame is dense with capped honeycomb in perfect hexagonal cells that took thousands of bees thousands of hours and thousands of flights to and from nearby wildflowers to collectively build. “Hold this,” he says, brushing off a few hangers-on. “You wont believe how heavy it is.”