FIU Magazine: You founded the beekeeping business Palm Pike Apiary in South Florida. How did you catch the bee “bug”?
Tasha Trujillo: I was an FIU student and working at the old location of the Frost Museum of Science in Miami when an exhibition went up about honeybees. Every time I headed to my office, I would look into the observation hive and stand fascinated as I watched all the bees working together. Previously, I was terrified of the insects and wouldn’t dare go near even one sitting on a flower. But the exhibit, for some reason, caught my attention. It’s crazy, but watching the bees calmed me down and I kind of fell in love with them.
When did they first “infest” your life?
Not long after graduating from FIU in 2016, a friend gifted me and my boyfriend a hive. Today I have 30. I keep two on my parents’ property in West Kendall and the rest on a quarter-acre that I rent from a farmer in Homestead. The tropical fruits he grows-jackfruit, lychee, star fruit, mango, avocado-benefit greatly from my bees, which pollinate the blooms on his trees and can triple his produce yields. And the variety of trees available to my bees adds a unique taste to the honey I sell.
Tell me about your becoming a businesswoman.
I majored in environmental sustainability with the idea of one day working for the park service. Then I participated in FIU’s farm apprenticeship program, which is ideal for anyone who wants to get into farming or beekeeping.
I don’t have a business background and struggled at first. But the idea that I could be independent and do something with my hands appealed to me. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve been able to take my bees and make something of them, show the world how amazing they are and at the same time provide a roof over my head.
It started around live bee removal. My boyfriend, who is now my business partner, and I kept getting calls from people who had swarms and beehives on their property. We quickly realized there was a market for this kind of service. It takes skill and effort, specialized equipment and, depending upon the hive’s accessibility, a lot of time. If it’s located in the soffit of a house, for example, it could take hours.
We burn pine needles and use the smoke to mask the bees’ pheromones because that one way they communicate. So instead of sending out the alarm pheromone that directs them to sting the human intruder, they smell the smoke and believe they must evacuate due to a fire. They start eating honey in preparation to leave, and that eating calms them down. All of the hives I own today have been saved this way.
Beyond removal, we also offer bee rental-farmers call us to bring our pollinators to their orchards-and I singlehandedly process and then sell our honey at community events, farmers’ markets and online.
You encourage others to become backyard beekeepers.
It’s rewarding and fun. The first thing anyone would do is read up as much as possible about bee biology and then get familiar with beekeeping equipment. One of the best ways to start is to join a local club such as Tropical Beekeepers Association, which holds monthly meetings to teach beginners.
I have an online blog and write educational articles, and I also started “host a hive,” a program that allows businesses, schools, community groups and other organizations to enjoy all the benefits of having their very own beehive while we take care of the logistics.
If anyone is interested or even thinks they might be interested, they are more than welcome to contact me and I will do my best to guide them on their journey.♦