Though the hive at the Whole Foods store is not accessible to the general public, Squire is using it as a teaching tool for his workers, who in turn can chat about bees to customers. An event at the store Monday will showcase honey and is designed to raise awareness about bees.
"It's kind of a conversation starter," Squire said last week during an interview on the roof, as bees flew in and out of the hive enclosure. "We had a store meeting [before the installation] and some were excited but I also saw people looking at me like, ‘Guy's out of his mind,' but that's fine, come talk to me. That's what this is about."
It's also about a man and his passion. Two years ago, Squire and his wife, Courtney, were sitting on their porch in Mount Airy, chatting about their garden, when a couple of bees happened by. "Her kind of offhand comment was, ‘I'd like to get some bees.' The deeper I got, the more fascinated and infatuated I became," Squire said.
"Next spring, the journey began," said Squire, 32, poetically describing the setup of his first hive. "It married itself perfectly with my personality." Squire now has a few hives at his house, as well as another on a parcel of land nearby.
Honeybees are gentle and sting only when threatened, he said. They are loath to attack because their barbed stingers will kill them after a single sting. Aside from the environmental hazards diminishing their numbers, honeybees suffer from a PR problem. Wasps and hornets, which are unrelated, are the more aggressive stinging insects. "Most people's first interaction with what they would call a bee happened at some family picnic when they were young and they drank that can of soda with what they called a bee in it and it deeply traumatized them," said Squire, who said he has been stung but only because of his own carelessness around the bees.
Still, the sight of thousands of bees swarming outside of a hive can be unsettling. Home beekeeping made the news over Memorial Day weekend when a Plymouth Township couple's bees left their hives while they were away and the swarm, which congregated in a nearby tree, freaked out the neighbors. Now, Plymouth Township is considering an ordinance on beekeeping.
The Whole Foods bees have a safe spot on the roof, away from exhaust fans and the air conditioning units. Squire's handiwork seems sound; Sunday night's violent thunderstorm seemed to have no effect on the colony, said Ruth Harp, a marketing specialist with the store.
Squire said his immediate goal was to keep the Whole Foods hive thriving over the winter. In spring, around the first bloom of the dandelion, he will begin taking honey from it. But obtaining honey is not his mission. "I'm about the stewardship of the animal more than what I can take from the animal," he said.
Contact Michael Klein at email@example.com.