Rebecca and Mary Nunnally were first stung by the bee bug at a beekeepers seminar in Austin. The mother-daughter team wanted to learn how to help save bee populations, which have been in decline globally for decades.
“If the bees die, we’re gonna die,” said Mary Nunnally, who, along with her mother, Rebecca, owns and operates Kinfolk Honey of Marble Falls.
The family hobby-turned-business packages and sells raw, unfiltered local honey at farmers markets and Crownover Feed Barn in Marble Falls.
“We are treatment-free beekeepers: no chemicals inside the hives or the honey,” Mary said.
Raw honey is unheated honey, she continued.
“It’s like saying the word ‘natural,’” she said. “If you heat honey, certain temperatures over time destroy the enzymes and pollen in honey. We want those to be present.”
Kinfolk Honey doesn’t add any fillers to its honey such as corn syrup or imported honey like commercial producers do. And, it doesn’t filter the honey through sand or diatomaceous earth as most commercial honey producers do. It runs the honey through a metal or plastic strainer only once before it is bottled for sale.
The honey is location-specific. Each apiary the Nunnallys own — including hives in Spicewood, Johnson City, and Kingsland; on Mormon Mill Road and FM 1980; and on each side of Lake Marble Falls — are processed individually. Samples from each apiary take tastebuds on an exploration of floral food sources in three counties. Even the hives across Lake Marble Falls from each other produce a different-flavored honey.
The bees at the FM 1980 apiary have access to strawberry fields. The Mormon Mill hives are next to an organic farm. The darkest honey in the sample comes from a hive on a boathouse in Buchanan Dam, where purple sage and bee brush are common. All of the bees, whether in hives the Nunnallys purchased when they began in 2013 or from relocated hives, live and feed on pesticide-free land.
“We have hive hosts all around town,” Mary said. “We always assess the area before we place the bees. The landowner can’t be using pesticides and must have food and water for the bees. They get the pollination service and a share of the honey in exchange.”
“And the joy of saving bees,” Rebecca added. “Most people with hives on their land are interested in that. They love bees; they love nature.”
Love of nature and a desire to save bees certainly led the Nunnallys into beekeeping.
“People were talking about moving bees, and we thought maybe we could do that,” Mary said. “Otherwise, people used pesticides to kill feral bees.”
Their work with bees began as a hobby. What it is now causes a brief debate when the subject comes up. Mary says it’s a business; Rebecca points out that Mary works two other jobs, one as a nurse and one as a Faith Academy of Marble Falls track coach.
“That makes it a hobby,” the mom said.
Both admit to being dedicated to what Mary calls “the adventure of beekeeping.” Hive removal is her favorite part.
“It’s always a surprise,” she said. “When you pry that board up, or the top of that meter box, when you get the first peek at the hive, that never gets old.”
The Nunnallys have removed bees from a box of antique dishes, barns, the walls and fireplace of a lakehouse, and trees. The most common removal locations are meter boxes and soffits under house eaves.
“You never know if it’s going to be a huge colony or one that just started the day before,” Rebecca said.
Removal begins with the sun in the sky and worker bees out foraging. Dressed from head to toe in beekeeper suits, Rebecca and Mary take the wax, honey comb, baby bees, and brood nest and strap it all into a standard bee box. The most important bee, the queen, is also removed. Where the queen goes, the bees follow.
“It’s a real challenge to find the queen,” Rebecca said.
Mary likened it to searching for the red-and-white striped shirt on the little black-haired figure in the “Where’s Waldo?” books. The beekeepers are looking for a larger than usual bee with no stripes and a black, hairless head.
Once the Nunnallys find the queen, they place her in a cage and put it in the bee box with the honey comb and brood nest. When night falls, the bees come home and go straight to the queen. Once the bees settle for the night, the Nunallys relocate the hive with fingers crossed that the bees will survive and stay put.
“Sometimes, they just leave,” Rebecca said. “You set them up on a property, and when you check back, they are gone. Maybe they are living in a tree somewhere, and that’s great. We still saved them.”
For the Nunnally clan (husband and father Stuart Nunnally, a dentist, also helps with processing the honey), Kinfolk Honey is first and foremost about bee removal and relocation.
“We’re not trying to produce a lot of honey; we’re trying to save bees,” Rebecca said.
“But the honey is a great byproduct,” Mary added.
Kinfolk Honey is located at 206 Avenue H in Marble Falls. All of the 2019 honey is sold out; 2020 honey should be available beginning in June or July. For more information, call 512-790-4233 or visit kinfolkhoney.com.