ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Some people are scared of bees; others love them. You could say Spencer Evans adores them. Evans still works full-time as a lawyer but is preparing to trade a life behind a desk to one behind a bee suit.
"Yeah, so I was working for a local law firm and got laid off, you know, during the first couple months of the pandemic. And I was fortunate enough to get a new job pretty quickly, but it was a flexible hour job that I was doing from my couch, you know, in my PJs, which is nice," Evans said. "And, I hadn't been probably the happiest in my legal jobs before then. And I found just now kind of like a quiet solace with beekeeping. So, it was kind of nice to be able to shift and go, okay, you know what, I'm actually genuinely happy doing my beekeeping and all of, you know, my bee stuff."
In January, Evans started Barefoot Beekeeping Co. He's now working to build his colonies of bees. He started about three years ago with two hives; he now has 10. We met him at an apiary in St. Petersburg. Before driving to the bee yard, we suited up.
"So, you used to suit up near the bees, but you got popped by a few?" ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska asked.
"Yeah, it was three right in succession, right on the temple, and that was kind of my, okay you know what, let's just do this out here."
"I guess you realized you are not allergic to bees?" Paluska asked.
"I am not allergic to bees. Everyone always asks if it doesn't hurt (getting stung often) after a while. It hurts every time," Evans said.
The journey from lawyer to beekeeper is still in progress. Evans is taking his time to learn the craft of beekeeping and making sure he is prepared to go all in.
"It's something that I always say that I'm not going to switch over until you know my financial future is secured. Because those student loans hit you like a baseball bat," Evans said. "So, right now, I am working full time as an attorney and, you know, doing sideline beekeeping. But you know, hopefully, one day it'll switch, and maybe I'll, you know, do my attorney stuff on the side, and my beekeeping will be my main job. It just feels a lot more rewarding and honest to be doing beekeeping than it does to be practicing law."
We checked on several of Evans' hives, searching for the queen, checking for hive beetles, and anything out of the ordinary. Their world is sometimes like a mini Game of Thrones episode.
"Yeah, so the bee world is a little bit hostile sometimes. This one's been fighting it out trying to re-queen. They killed their queen. I don't know why. But I have been trying to fix them. But, I gave them a new queen which they killed," Evans said. "They've been my problem child this year."
There are honey robbing events and swarms that try and take over a hive. Despite the drama and standing next to thousands of buzzing bees, no one got stung. Evans says bees get a bad rap.
"You can see like, where we're barehanded, you know, and we went through all these hives and everything, and most bees are very gentle," Evans said. "And, there is a there's a fear for the Africanized bees. And I'm not going to lie and say that that, you know, it doesn't exist, but few and far between. You'll see them, and you'll know, they are the, you know, the aggressive hives that will chase people. But, the vast, vast majority of beehives are actually quite gentle."
Evans plans to form partnerships and start a hive host management business, placing hives in urban areas and backyards for a fee.