Neither the sting nor the summer heat can stop this Texas beekeeper from rescuing wild bees in his new reality show | Art & Seek

Ashley Scott Davison is no stranger to dangerous encounters with wildlife.

“I was being chased by an elephant in Zambia. I was chased by a giraffe in Kenya, “said the Austin filmmaker. “But I think it’s harder to shoot bees in Texas this summer.”

Davison has spent three years working on a National Geographic documentary on the decline of giraffe populations across Africa, but his latest project is closer to home. “Charlie Bee Company,” a new show aired nationwide on PBS this spring, introduces New Braunfels beekeepers and removal specialist Charlie Agar as he rescues wild bees from San Antonio to Austin in the steamy Lone Star.

Austin filmmaker Ashley Scott Davison through his production company Iniosante Inc. produced several documentaries about giraffes, but shooting Texas bees brought its own unique challenges. Photo courtesy of Iniosante Inc.

Just imagine trying to keep the camera in a stable position under the crawl space of a mobile home when it’s 105 degrees outside.

“We all probably lost 10, 15, 20 pounds in water only the summer we shot it,” Davison said.

Unlike giraffes, bees can get into your business, squeeze into the slots of a large camera or buzz directly into your frame.

“There’s no eyepiece because you have a veil over your head.” There are no tripods because you have to keep moving, “he said. “We had to make sure that the cameras had image stabilization in the body. We had to be really close to these bees to understand what was going on. ”

But it was good fun for Agar.

“We were preparing the ball,” he said. “I’m playing ball with the bees.” I think that’s our story and I hope it appears in the series. “

“Charlie Bee Company” focuses on Agar’s company of the same name and follows him as he pursues nervous calls to remove bees from the inner walls, boats, whirlpools and old oaks.

Once Agar saves the bees, he puts them to work by harvesting and selling their honey. The first step is to reintroduce the queen bee into a wild colony. Agar still remembers learning the biology behind this process at a beekeeping presentation.

“I had no background and no interest as such,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. It never occurred to me how the queen lays 2,000 eggs a day in high season and can live to be 4 or 5 years old. As queen again, they colonize and pass on their genes as a superorganism. ”

Agar also rents bees to Texans with rural land. Beekeeping on their property allows landowners to qualify for agricultural valuation, which can reduce property taxes. The beekeeper places the hives on people’s property and manages the insects himself.

“I always invite property owners to join me,” Agar said. “Sharing beekeeping is one of my greatest pleasures and I’m a little showy.”

Agar, a former journalist, participates in the show with other bee lovers to explore various aspects of beekeeping. He visits a local brewery that produces honey beer and takes a look at Texas A&M’s Honey Bee Lab.

Both Agar and Davison wanted the show to maintain a cheerful tone, rather than focusing on the “doom and gloom” of bee health. According to a survey by the non-profit organization Bee Informed Partnership, American beekeepers lost about 45.5% of their managed hives between 2020 and 2021. Habitat loss, pesticides and unstable weather are major concerns.

Agar does not shy away from these truths. He said he lost many hives during the winter storm in Texas and the extremely humid May resulted in one of the worst years of honey production in decades.

Yet he believes that stirring up curiosity and public recognition for insects opens up conversations.

“It will have a big impact on how people see their food source or what they supply to pollinators at home,” Agar said.

Agar has always been considered a nature lover, but only when he was “drawn” to a presentation with a honey bee did he become enthusiastic about insects. Photo courtesy of Iniosante Inc.

Davison certainly hopes that people will leave after watching the program.

“Literally for every third bite of food we have, you can thank the bee,” he said. “I just want them to appreciate this amazing little pollinator.”

“Charlie Bee Company” premiered at KLRU Austin Austin in January. It is set for a nationwide broadcast by PBS this spring.


Do you have a tip? Email Miguel Perez at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter @quillindie.

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David Berry

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