‘The poetry of agriculture’: Fricks Apiaries shows love to Chapel Hill through beekeeping

By Isabella Braddish

February weather is a guessing game for residents of the Tar Heel State. One day, it’s snowfall. The next, a beautiful 60-degree day that calls for an extended lunch break.

Conditions may be unpredictable, but North Carolina apiarists — also known as beekeepers — start their seasonal work on February 1. Rain or shine.

Chapel Hill residents Guy and Ingrid Fricks began their beekeeping careers when they purchased two bee hives in early 2000s and opened Fricks Apiaries. Following a move from Carolina Beach, the couple became invested in protecting the local environment and building a community of honey enthusiasts

A former yacht carpenter, Guy Fricks turned to beekeeping — a practice he said is a dying art. A proverb has circulated in the hearts and minds of the couple since moving to Chapel Hill.

“Beekeeping is the poetry of agriculture,” Guy Fricks said. 

Nothing short of necessary’

In the United States, more than one-third of all crop pollination requires some sort of insect pollination. Therefore, bees aid in the production of about one-third of the food supply. They also help prevent soil erosion. Without the presence of bees, the diversity and availability of fresh produce would drastically decline. 

“Beekeeping is nothing short of necessary for this world we live in,” Guy Fricks said. 

The United States Department of Agriculture has estimated that bees and butterflies help pollinate approximately 75% of the world’s flowering plants. Not only do bees pollinate roughly 35% of the world’s food crops like fruits and vegetables, but they are responsible for providing stable ecosystems for other animals and insects.

The process of pollination provides stability in numerous ecological settings. 

“For decades, honey bee populations have been on the decline,” Guy Fricks said. “From pesticides to parasites to destruction of habitats, they just can’t seem to catch a break.” 

This perpetual decline has been occurring for some time. But in recent years, the decline of pollinators has dramatically worsened, largely due to a phenomenon that the United States Environmental Protection Agency calls  “Colony Collapse Disorder,” or CCD.

CCD occurs when environmental circumstances or human intervention cause worker bees to flee the hive, leaving behind the queen bee and the remaining honey supply.

‘Innovative? Always.’

After learning just how powerful beekeeping is in terms of environmental sustainability, Guy Fricks said he decided to translate his interest into a business.

This drive resulted in the genesis of a full-time family venture that revolves around community, passion, dedication, and sustainability. To Guy Fricks, it also ensures the future of local beekeeping. 

“Innovative? Always. Boring? Never,” Guy Fricks said. 

The Chapel Hill-based farm offers an array of products and services that revolve around the beauty of bees and the art of beekeeping.

Fricks Apiaries produces and sells raw, unfiltered honey from honeybees that forage across Orange, Chatham and Alamance Counties. It sells raw local honey, creamed honey, comb honey, bee pollen, handmade beeswax candles and other hive products.

The farm also sells N.C.-raised queen bees from their locally-adapted stock, typically available from April to September. To ensure continued demand for beekeeping in the area, the family offers pollination services to farmers from February to September. 

For $40 plus shipping fees, patrons can buy Carniolan or Italian Queens, the two most common N.C.-raised queen bees. Fricks Apiaries prides itself on its honeybee selection, Guy Fricks said, as its stocks are selected to thrive in North Carolina while resisting pests and diseases.

‘Nothing quite like their honey’

For the benefit of patrons’ health and individual wellness, the honey from Fricks Apiaries is completely raw and unfiltered, which allows for the honey to retain its pollen particles and natural enzymes.

One of the apiary’s products, freeze-dried bee pollen, has a long history of medicinal use. Propolis is a resin-like material that honeybees father from bark or buds and mix with their wax. Medicinal use of this substance dates back to ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations, where it would be used for its healing properties. 

Loyal customer and Chapel Hill resident Mary Voelkel was quick to rave about the quality products Fricks has to offer. 

“There is nothing quite like their honey,” Voelkel said. “Not only is local honey crucial for allergy sufferers like myself, but it also tastes amazing.” 

Another customer, Carolina Ramirez, was eager to offer tips for consuming Fricks’ honey. 

“Honey is one thing,” she said. “But hot honey seriously changes the game. You can put it on anything and see how it instantly transforms a flavor profile immediately.” 

Fricks Apiaries’ products can also be found at fan-favorite shops such as Maple View Farm Ice Cream. 

“Those products sell out quite often and definitely seem to be a hit,” a spokesperson for Maple View said. 

Although Guy and Ingrid Fricks said they love to see customers enjoying their products, they urge buyers to understand how important the art of beekeeping is in sustaining a fully-functioning and lively environment. 

“We need to put environmental issues at the forefront of more minds,” Guy Fricks said. 

As both local and global populations increase, bees are essential in providing a sustainable and constant source of diverse agriculture. 

Local beekeeping and businesses like Fricks Apiaries are one piece of conservation efforts in North Carolina and across the county. Their efforts are possible only with the support of the community.

“It all starts and ends at the individual level,” Guy Fricks said. “We need people to really care about this cause because its effects can be seen both at the micro- and macro-level.”

Edited by Allie Kelly and Mattie Collins