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Black Bird Beekeepers began in 2020 in response to the pandemic as a way for the founder, Darin Wimbush Johnson, to create an eco-friendly, health-promoting, and sustainable business that he will be able to pass down to his sons and future generations.
When most of us see a single bee, we see a nuisance at best and at worst a potentially allergy-inducing attacker. Yet, for innately curious Johnson, he sees merely one of his colony’s 40,000 honey bees in Bassett, Virginia.
Assisted by his two children, Zion and Marley, the Martinsville, Virginia born and Fayetteville, North Carolina raised Johnson says, “Black Bird Beekeeping came from me being a Black man and having Black children.”
The serial entrepreneur reflects, “The company was birthed at a time of heightened racial awareness. Conversations about social justice and race relations were everywhere and one day I was sitting and listening to a Beatles song, Black Bird (1968), and how they gave inspiration to a generation of civil rights fighters. It felt like it was an analogous tone to what was happening in 2020. It felt like I was in a time machine. The message resonated with me.”
“Blackbird singing in the dead of nightBlack Bird)Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise” – Beatles (
When asked how his children and other newcomers interested in beekeeping overcome their fear of being stung, Johnson says common sense is key. “You have to realize there are some things you just can’t control. You can take all the precautions you want.” He continued, “to get over that fear I sometimes have to let them do what they naturally do. They don’t bother you when they’re out foraging for pollen and nectar, but when you come closer to their home, they sting you to protect their house.”
A graduate of HBCU, Winston Salem State University, he added, “Some of the best steps someone interested in beekeeping can take is to learn as much as you can. You’ll start to realize that they’re only protective of their house. If you think about that temperament, that’s how we are as humans. I think of it as culture, if you want to know something about a different culture, learn about it before you try to set the parameters for them to live by.”
“We exist to provide an artisanal bee product for people who want to contribute to a sustainable ecosystem,” says Johnson.
A fan of Akeelah and the Bee, Johnson wants his business to reflect “the lessons of triumph and what it takes be a champion” for his sons. “I want it to be something that families can gravitate toward too. This is something I started with my family, with my two boys. It’s something we do to deepen our relationship. We enjoy the honey but we also go through the stresses that come along with potentially being stung,” he said.
While he and his boys may manage over 40,000 bees and counting, Johnson knows the Queen Bee runs the show. “I can’t lie, sometimes I still get anxious with 40,000 bees flying around me, but I’m much better than I used to be. Now, I can go in, find the Queen, make sure she’s good and keep it moving,” says Johnson.
Beekeepers support the environment
As an Army veteran, Johnson’s steadfast discipline has quickly paid off in his newfound passion. In the beginning stages, he says, “I started taking classes with Durham County Beekeepers Association, reading books, watching videos, and connecting with other like-minds in my community. There’s already been a lot of interest in products we sell and word-of-mouth of what we’re building.”
Studies suggest that honey might offer antidepressant, anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety and memory benefits. Topical use of medical-grade honey has been shown to promote wound healing, particularly in burns.
Considering the amount of resources honey can provide, Johnson says he knows his investment will benefit others. He added, “we save bees, keep them healthy, and manage them, that way everyone can benefit from it.”
With even more honey, beeswax, and honey combs on the way, Johnson has also created merchandise for the winter months as his bees stay active in their hive until spring.
Follow their journey on Instagram and shop at Black Bird BeeKeepers for custom coffee mugs, apparel, and more. You can also order honey and honeycombs here.