There is nothing quite like walking amongst millions of honey bees on a warm summer evening. The air buzzes with the small creatures who seem to have a singular focus of returning to one of the 30 hives in Ryan Nefcy’s backyard in Coupeville.
Nefcy’s name may seem familiar if you’re a social media user. He frequently posts in a local Facebook group about the bees, a giant pumpkin or some of the other critters in his yard.
The Facebook posts started as a way to fight what he thought was some negativity on the page and social media in general, he said.
Nefcy said he thought a post about an interesting bug in the yard could be an educational moment to take people’s minds off the negativity.
“You can’t really fight about learning about bug facts,” he said.
“Plus, lately, I don’t know if it’s just a human thing or what, but everyone’s instinct when they see a bug is to kill it. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction.
“But that could be a harmless bug that’s helpful to your garden,” he added.
Before he was known as the Whidbey’s Island’s guy for all things buggy on Facebook, Nefcy was known as the “Bug Man” when he was a Marine. He served for eight years.
He grew up in Portland, Ore. and moved to Whidbey a few years ago.
“I’m that guy, as far as it comes to bugs. Even in the Marines, I got called for every random bug or wasp problem. I’m just interested,” he said.
People still call Nefcy for their wasp woes. He even removed bees from the Roller Barn in Oak Harbor this summer and has added them to his hives instead of killing them.
“Being on an island, our poisons and sprays actually do have a pretty big impact. That’s all going into the water,” Nefcy said.
He does not use chemicals to remove bees and will relocate them instead — including to his own backyard.
Nefcy has been a beekeeper for about 15 years, he said, and it shows.
An apple tree behind his house has dozens upon dozens of fat apples, scores of tomatoes cascading down vines inside of a hoop house, and bright yellow sunflowers tower above the home’s inhabitants. That’s one of the benefits of having a million bees in your yard.
“Every flower gets pollinated,” Nefcy said with a laugh.
Beekeeping isn’t just as sweet as honey, though, Nefcy said.
“A lot of people think beekeeping is easy. It’s not. The bees would never live here if they had a choice. It’s our cool, wet winters that they don’t like so it requires a lot of attention for them to live here,” Nefcy explained.
“If you go into winter with 10 hives, you’d be lucky to come out with half of them.”
It’s not so much the colder weather as it is the humidity that the bees don’t like, Nefcy clarified.
“It’s kind of like your foot being in a shoe and sitting there all day sweating.
“(The bees) can’t get the moisture out of their hives,” he said.
As his hives have grown, Nefcy has needed to branch out to other areas of the island so the bees have enough territory to find food.
This summer he moved a couple of hives to homes around the island. He’s also been able to harvest some of the honey from his bees to sell at the farm stand in front of his house on Hazzle Court, near Crockett Lake. His goal is to grow enough food to support himself and to sell at the farm stand.
Nefcy said he will continue to post his mini-lessons on social media, especially given the amount of division in society right now.
He has no plans to stop and wants to stay on Whidbey long-term.