Dunwoody couple among a community of beekeepers
One could say Cindy and Mike Hodges are leading sweet lives.
The Dunwoody couple’s children are grown and gone, and they’ve replaced caring for offspring with being stewards of thousands of buzzing insects.
The Hodgeses are beekeepers who tend to hives in several locations in Dunwoody and also harvest the bees’ precious honey for themselves, family and friends.
“Beekeeping is a fantastic learning experience,” said Cindy Hodges who’s been caring for and learning about honey bees for 17 years. “You become much more connected to nature.”
Cindy Hodges, former president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association and former board member of the Georgia Beekeepers Association, is a member of the 30-member Dunwoody Beekeepers Club.
“We want to educate local residents how to keep your bees alive and how to be a good neighbor,” she said.
The Dunwoody Beekeepers Club, which formed two years ago just before the start of the pandemic, has been meeting virtually but now is holding monthly in-person meetings at Dunwoody Nature Center. During meetings, club members learn about different aspects of beekeeping and things they can do with products from their hives.
Club’s members include veterinarians, veterans, real estate agents, retirees, physical therapists, chefs, and executives of Fortune 500 companies, she said.
“We all have one thing in common: learning with fascination about bees as pollinators,” said Cindy Hodges. “Many want honey production, but not everyone does it for that.”
The Hodgeses got into beekeeping after their last child left home for college.
She said she wondered “What on Earth are my husband and I going to do together because we have nothing in common.” Childhood memories of helping a neighbor who kept bees and first taste of honey straight from hive was the gateway to their hobby, she recalls.
The Hodgeses tend to 80 hives, some at their home and some at Dunwoody Nature Center, but Cindy Hodges said her husband wants them to reduce that number to about 25. (Hives can have from 10,000 to 50,000 bees—workers, drones and a queen—depending on a number of factors such as the season, she said.)
“It’s a very solitary experience. There’s not a lot of talking unless you are doing a hive inspection. It’s a very zen experience. It lowers my blood pressure.”
She pointed out that two major threats to hives and honey bees are mosquito control chemicals and the parasite varroa mites.
“It’s a challenge to keep your bees alive,” she said, adding that most new beekeepers will experience the loss of hives.
“Did they regularly inspect their colony? Did they check/treat for varroa? Did they feed over the winter, did they stop feeding in January when the bees were flying in warm weather,” she said are some of the questions to ask when a hive dies.
To maintain a healthy hive, beekeepers must inspect colonies regularly, inspect for mites and treat if needed, according to Cindy Hodges.
There are 20,000 known bee species worldwide and about 4,000 of them native to the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website.
In addition to sending honey to their daughters who live in Colorado and Oregon, Cindy’s husband also uses honey to produce mead, a fermented honey beverage, she said. She reports that Mike has entered competitions and won prizes for his mead.
At Dunwoody Nature Center, there are four honey bee hives in a pen as well as an observation hive at which visitors can view bees at work at a safe distance.
Cindy Hodges said Dunwoody and Decatur have been designated as a Bee City USA. They are two of 152 affiliates in 44 states designated by the non-profit group Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA to “galvanize communities to sustain pollinators, in particular the more than 3,600 species of native bees in this country, by increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites, and reducing the use of pesticides.”