When most people discover a wild bee colony in their backyard, they run screaming. But not Annie Laurie Thompson. In 2011, the Baton Rouge native returned home from vacation to a colony of wild bees forming a hive in one of her backyard trees. After she got the hive removed, she was still intrigued by the hard-working insects. A few months later, she bought her own bees and began harvesting honey.
Today, Thompson’s yard is home to three hives of more than 275,000 bees. Since 2016, she has been selling honey through her business, Basic Bee Shop. She stocks jars of honey, honey cubes, cocktail cubes, bourbon honey, spicy honey and custom beauty products like salve and chapstick.
Thompson experiments with essential oils, natural spices and spirits to create new honey products. From her Shenandoah kitchen, she mixes, blends and bottles new recipes like Basic Bee Shop’s Hot Honey, a spicy capsicum oil-infused honey.
“I enjoy beekeeping so much because of the good it does for our daily lives,” Thompson says.
She points out that eating local honey not only benefits one’s immune system, but a large portion of American crops rely on bee pollination.
With the help of her husband, Thompson harvests honey twice a year. Her bees produce nearly 40 pounds of honey per hive during harvest seasons. Most days she spends working her day job at Whole Foods, but in her downtime she monitors her bees and packs, labels, ships and delivers orders to customers at least once a week. Thompson has shipped orders everywhere from Texas to Washington, D.C.
She didn’t always think she’d start a honey business, though. After the bees began producing so much honey, she says she had to find a way to get rid of it.
Now Basic Bee Shop sells its products online, at Mid City Makers Market and Coutlier Knife Shop in New Orleans. While she specializes in making
honey-based food and drink products, one of her favorite parts of her business is making custom wedding favors. She’s made chapsticks labeled “meant to bee” and miniature honey jars for wedding guests to take home.
Now entering her fourth year in business, Thompson wants to continue growing. She plans to start selling her products at local stores and is working on a formula for chocolate-flavored honey. Until then, Basic Bee Shop will pop up at local events this fall like Mid City Makers Market and White Light Night.
“My goal is to provide the highest quality honey and all-natural unique products,” Thompson says, “while always keeping in mind our earth and the positive effects we can have on it.” basicbeeshop.com
OTHER LOCAL HONEY BUSINESSES
Bee Pure Apiary
Bocage Bee & Honey
Find it on Facebook
Louisiana Gold Honey Farm
Old South Honey
This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.