It’s a sweltering Saturday morning in July, and Nicole Buergers is slipping into some protective clothing in the backyard of Smith Opticians ahead of a house call she’s about to pay to the 50,000 residents of one of Third Ward’s buzziest townhomes. As the owner of Bee2Bee Honey Collective, one of Houston’s most popular beekeeping businesses, Buergers does check-ins like this one on a near daily basis, a fact made apparent by the ease with which she interacts with her sometimes cantankerous tenants—a poise that isn’t quite as easy to master as she makes it seem.
“You have to act like you’re moving underwater. Tai chi: nice and smooth,” Buergers says. “If you feel something running down, that’s sweat. If you feel something running up, that’s a bee.”
Since 2016, the year she launched her business after exiting from her career in B2B internet marketing, Buergers has installed more than 100 hives like this one in backyards across the greater Houston area. Right now, the collective has 85 hives spread out over 35 properties, and Buergers installs anywhere from 20 to 30 new ones each year.
Among Buergers’s clients, who pay her from $75 to $200 a month for both mentorship and the upkeep of their hives, are notable Houstonians such as astronaut Shannon Walker, the only native Houstonian astronaut to command the ISS, and former mayor Annise Parker, whose civic finesse seems to have translated well to the field of apiary management. “She’s fearless,” Buergers says. “She’s a great person, and she’s a great beekeeper.”
Since it costs a novice beekeeper a lot of money to get started, Buergers provides members of her collective with everything they need in order to be successful, including access to a shared library of tools and resources. Membership also comes with unlimited hive visits, pest control, nutritional monitoring, educational resources by way of personal mentorship and free classes, and, of course, harvesting.
Members of Bee2Bee get to keep 65 percent of their honey harvest, while Buergers keeps the remaining 35 percent, which she packages into a range of raw and unfiltered honey products that she sells on her website and at local businesses like Houston Dairymaids. While some Bee2Bee honey comes infused with botanicals like fennel, lavender, and orange blossom, much of it is packaged by neighborhood, allowing customers to experience honey that was created as close to where they live as possible.
“I can’t legally say that there are benefits, but it’s why I do what I do,” Buergers says of honey with hyperlocal terroir. “I have a lot of customers who swear by it and a lot of doctors who send customers my way. I really think you should eat honey that is as local as possible. It’s like tasting your present environment.”
A lot of people are what Buergers likes to call “bee-curious,” and she invites them to shadow her anytime (she has a shadowing schedule that she puts out on her site every week), so they can learn the ins and outs of the wonderful word of bees, of which Buergers is often known to wax poetic.
“The thing I love the most about beekeeping is that it gives you a unique perspective on nature and your environment. You’re part of this ecosystem, and you see how the internal ecosystem of a colony works and how they collaborate and work together. … It’s fascinating, beautiful, and almost spiritual,” she says. “They call beekeeping the gateway drug. It introduces you to this whole world of insects and how we interact with them.”