A family’s bee-spoke business
The last year has been a stressful time for everyone.
When Bermuda went into lockdown last April, Francesca Thomas wanted to do something to help.
“During the peak of the pandemic I thought we needed something to calm us all down and relax,” said Mrs Thomas, who runs Dragon Honey Bermuda with her husband, Rob Thomas.
So she came up with Stress Less Balm, made with beeswax and infused with lavender and rosemary, botanicals that are thought to promote relaxation. The soothing cream is applied to the wrists and temples.
“The thought process was just to take a minute for ourselves amid the chaos and just to “stress less”,“ Mrs Thomas said. ”Our whole routines were tossed upside down and there were a lot of unknowns. With nowhere to go, many of us were busier then normal with work and family blending at the same time. The need for a little less stress just seemed necessary.“
Some customers have told her they use it before bed to get the relaxation process started.
The balm is just one of many products made by the Thomas family, using honey and beeswax from their own hives, such as beeswax wraps, cutting board conditioner, and raw honey.
When the pandemic began, Mrs Thomas was just about to go back to work after maternity leave with her second son, Callum.
“I took an extended maternity leave,” she said. “I am a finance and compliance consultant. With the onset of Covid-19 I took a step back and decided to wait to see how things would pan out. I thought it was not the best time to take a job.”
She used that time to set up a website and Instagram account for Dragon Honey Bermuda. There was a wave of interest, and she now has more than 300 followers on Instagram.
That encouraged her to join the third cohort of the Ignite business accelerator programme in January.
“Having a supportive network was pretty valuable,” she said.
One of her challenges is maintaining the health of the hives. Hives worldwide have been weakened or destroyed by a pest called the varroa mite.
“We are constantly watching the hives to check on the health of them to see if we need to step in to enhance their strength,” she said.
The couple got into raising bees ten years ago as a hobby. Mrs Thomas started the business after her oldest son, Harrison was born in 2016. She was looking for more natural products for him.
“I spent time researching options and then I started working on making our non-petroleum jelly utilising the beeswax to create a natural protectant for the skin mixing it with organic and high quality oils,” she said.
She found it worked well on diaper rash and minor skin irritations.
“I have never used anything else since,” she said. “I use it for everything. I have about six containers on the go at any time. There are no chemicals. There are no preservatives. The products are about as clean and good for you as you are going to get.”
Friends and family started asking if they could try her beeswax salves and balms. Then they wanted Christmas gift boxes. Dragon Honey Bermuda was born.
The business name is a homage to Mr Thomas’s Welsh background. Dragons figure heavily in Welsh mythology.
They started keeping bees after Mr Thomas took a community education course with beekeeper, Quincy Burgess.
“It was supposed to be my husband’s hobby, but it became a shared one,” Mrs Thomas said.
Getting stung is just part of the job of maintaining bee hives.
“There has to be some pain with pleasure,” she laughed. “It can’t all be fun. That is part of the thrill, maybe.”
Mrs Thomas laughed at this idea that the bees come to recognise their keepers.
“Maybe that is so,” she said. "They are still going to get just as angry when you bother them.“
She said keeping bees has put the Thomas family in closer touch with nature.
“It was a windy day today, and I thought the bees won’t be going very far,” Mrs Thomas said. “They don’t fly in winds above 20 knots. On a day like today they will be hunkered down. You start to see everything through a different lens.”
Dragon Honey Bermuda sells their products at the Tuck Shop in Southampton and Brumae Cafe in St Georges. The J&J Produce farm stand also carries their honey, when they have it.
In addition to selling bee-related products, Dragon Honey Bermuda will also collect unwanted swarms.
For more information see their website www.dragonhoneybermuda.com, Instagram @dragonhoneybermuda, Facebook @bdahoney, call 532-1157 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org