Next Gen Beekeeper: Danielle Sommer-Kieta

Posted 07/18/2020 BY Paige Mulhern

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We’re bringing back our Next Gen Beekeeper series, inspired by our friend, Sarah Red-Laird at The Bee Girl Organization, where we will be highlighting folks from our staff and beyond, to celebrate the many unique forces that make up the next generation of beekeepers! Keep your eyes peeled for up-and-coming beekeepers with the hashtag #nextgenbeekeeper.

To kick it off, we’re highlighting Best Bees’ own Deck Chief and Head of Harvesting, Danielle Sommer-Kieta!

Danielle at her two beehives in Roxbury, MA.

Name: Danielle Sommer Kieta 

Age: I am timeless. 

Hometown: Boston, I grew up in Roxbury. 

How long have you been at Best Bees? I officially joined the staff in October of 2019, but I’ve been hanging around for a bit now, almost a year!

Position/Title: I am the Deck Chief and the Head of Harvesting. As a Deck Chief, I’m responsible for ensuring that the materials that beekeepers need when they’re in the field are prepared for them. As the Head of Harvesting, I ensure that people receive their honey, take care of supplemental honey orders, and process the wax. Both require managing our shop staff.

What is your favorite part of beekeeping? I think everybody would assume it would be the honey, and I do enjoy honey! But what I really love is experiencing the process of creation. I find beekeeping to be extremely meditative. With the bees, you’re in a relationship with another living being, but unlike with a human, you’re not talking to each other and observing body cues. You’re transferring on a different level. I appreciate the care that’s derived from that mutual, unspoken support.

How did you get into beekeeping? Someone in my family was a beekeeper and got in a terrible accident. They needed help so I volunteered. At the time, I really didn’t know what I was doing but I just kept going. It will be 6 years in October. 

Why do you think it is important to keep bees or do the work you’re doing? As someone who has worked in urban ag, I understand how critical bees are to our food system. This goes for all bees, although I think honeybees have sort of become the “spokesperson” for food-producing pollinators. Without bees, we wouldn’t have food or our food systems would look a lot different. Additionally, there are so many benefits outside of food that make them so important! Beekeeping reminds us of our symbiotic relationship with the Earth. This is especially important as the world around us becomes more digitized, and we feel less connected to our surroundings. There’s a nourishment in nature that you can’t get from a digital space— even if you feel connected to somebody because you follow them on the ‘gram. It reminds me of artificial sweeteners in a way. It may technically taste sweet, but it’s void of any nutritional value. …Unlike honey, which is jam-packed with tasty benefits. 

Danielle opening up her backyard beehive.

What is your favorite cool bee fact?  Bees need to consume a minimum of 6 lbs to make 1 lb of wax. When considering bee products, a lot of people think about the wax of an afterthought, but it’s actually a huge investment for bees to produce wax! 

Honesty time: are you afraid of bees? No, but there are occasions when I feel a little uneasy around them. For instance, if a bee is buzzing my head a lot, she’s sending me a message. If I shift myself and that doesn’t alleviate the situation, that tends to make me a little nervous, especially since I’ve recently become more sensitive to stings. But mostly, I feel like if I stay chill, they stay chill. 

Would you rather be a queen bee or a worker bee? Hard decision! But I think I’m a queen bee. Not only do I have children, but I’m also in it for the long haul. Like a queen, I tend to take on a certain level of responsibility for everyone and enjoy moving things forward for the greater good. 

Danielle showing her son a frame of bees.

Favorite place to keep bees? I like urban beekeeping. So, either in my yard or on an urban farm.

What are you up to when you’re not beekeeping? I’m a mom so I do a lot of that in my free time. But I also enjoy cooking, making recipes, socializing with folks, and farming. 

Is there anything that you’ve been working on or that you’re excited to share? Or anything in your life you’d like to promote? I’ve recently been into experimenting with honey and wax, making products like bees wrap and hand-salves. I’ve also been trading hive-derived products with folks who do botanical work around medicinal herbs. I think bartering is the best mode of exchange, so if you want to trade services, hit me up! Lastly, I’ve been working on a seasonal food series, highlighting and sharing simple recipes composed of real, plant-based, foods. 

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