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Bridgeport Beekeeper Hopes to Turn Honey Hobby Into Sweet Business

By Casey Cora | May 13, 2014 6:44am
 Yojo Shaw wants to bottle her "extremely local" Bridgeport honey over the summer.
Bridgeport Beekeeper
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BRIDGEPORT — It was a long winter for everyone, even for bees, but a Bridgeport beekeeper hopes to turn her hobby into a small business this summer.

"They get in a big ball, shiver and eat honey," Yojo Shaw said of the insects' cold-weather behavior. "They kick all the males out, keep the queen in the middle of the cluster and move around until they eat all the honey."

Casey Cora chats with DNAinfo Radio about Bridgeport amateur beekeper Yojo Shaw:

Shaw, 40, oversees three hives behind Bubbly Dynamics, a sustainable manufacturing hub at 1048 W. 37th St.

With the return of warmer weather, the bees — which will eventuall number 120,000 — have become more active, and Shaw is now hoping to elevate her hobby into a modest business.

In the last few years, the bees have produced enough honey for Shaw, a writer and artist, to pass out to friends. She's also bottled a few batches for fundraising sales at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, where the honey is marketed as "extremely local."

With the addition of a new third hive, Shaw said the bees could yield up to 5 or 6 gallons, which she'd like to sell at places like farmers markets and independent restaurants.

The hives, tucked within an overgrown lot among a few Bridgeport warehouses, isn't quite a bucolic pasture, but it doesn't have to be.

"It's advantageous to be in that area because we find that in these post-industrial areas ... a lot of land has reverted back to native plants and plants that were used on farms. There are a lot of nectar sources, so it's a good place to have bees," said Michael Thompson, farm manager for the Chicago Honey Co-Op, a group that helps train beekeepers.

The location is also a bonus for John Edel, the founder of Bubbly Dynamics and The Plant.

Edel is "fine with it. He gets rent and honey," Shaw said.

Standing near the hives recently with her dog Isobell — "She sucks as an assistant. She eats the bees" — Shaw said beekeeping helps her escape from the doldrums of her desk job as data processor for a large grocery chain.

"I'm super lucky to have a place like this to come make a mess," she said.