Tampa beekeeper sustains ecosystem and sweetens lives

Tampa beekeeper sustains ecosystem and sweetens lives

ODESSA, Fla. (BLOOM) — When Christian Ramthun retired from the military in 2014 after 22 years of service, he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his boots. Instead, he swapped them for beekeeper’s gear, embarking on a sweet new venture with his family. This is the story of Tampa Bees, where the buzz is about more than just honey.

Bloom’s Gayle Guyardo learns how to be a beekeeper for a day

A Family Affair

It all began with a family visit to Wisconsin, where Christian’s brother-in-law, Daniel, was a seasoned beekeeper. “After a visit, we were hooked,” recalls Stephanie Ramthun, Christian’s wife and the head apiarist at Tampa Bees. Their excitement was palpable, and soon, the whole family, especially their eldest son, Titus, was deeply involved. “It was like a spell—once you get stung by the beekeeping bug, there’s no going back!” Stephanie jokes.

With a bachelor’s degree in biology, Stephanie’s transition to head apiarist was natural, albeit her most valuable lessons came from hands-on experience and mingling with other bee enthusiasts at conventions and local events.

Stephanie and Gayle
Stephanie and Gayle

Educating the Next Generation

Beyond producing honey, Stephanie is passionate about education. She runs a beekeeping class, visits schools, and even offers online courses through TEACHABLE. “The most rewarding part,” she says, “is seeing the change in how people view the natural world after learning about bees. It’s like watching flowers bloom in real time in their minds.”

The bee suits
The bee suits

Overcoming Challenges with a Buzz

Starting a bee business isn’t without its challenges. “Funding was a major sting at first,” Stephanie admits. The initial focus on pollination didn’t generate enough revenue, leading them to pivot to urban beekeeping and agriculture education—a move that Stephanie describes as a turning point in their buzzing enterprise.

A peek at the river by the hive location
A peek at the river by the hive location

Sustainability: More Than Just a Buzzword

At Tampa Bees, sustainability is at the heart of operations, from recycling wax and honeycombs to choosing wood over plastic for their hives. “We’re not just keeping bees; we’re keeping them right,” says Stephanie, emphasizing their commitment to natural pest control and ethical bee relocation and rescue.

Brody with a behind the scenes look
Brody with a behind the scenes look

The Future is Buzzing

Looking ahead, Tampa Bees aims to refine their queen rearing practices and expand educational outreach. Stephanie also dreams of opening a local beekeeping store. “As I get older, I want to plant the seeds for future generations to continue this important work,” she shares.

Bee Therapy: Nature’s Own Remedy

One of the most intriguing and lesser-known aspects of Tampa Bees is their innovative approach to health and wellness through bee venom therapy. This ancient practice, which might make some squeamish, involves the deliberate use of bee stings to treat a variety of ailments, particularly those related to inflammation.

Stephanie Ramthun, with her pioneering spirit, has embraced this practice and witnessed its profound impact on people’s health. “Bee venom therapy is not just about getting stung,” Stephanie explains. “It’s a careful and deliberate process that harnesses the anti-inflammatory and healing properties found in bee venom.”

How Bee Venom Therapy Works

Bee venom contains a potent mixture of enzymes, peptides, and amines which can stimulate the immune system and increase cortisol production, an anti-inflammatory hormone. This is particularly effective in treating conditions like arthritis, muscle stiffness, and some autoimmune diseases. The process begins with a thorough health assessment to ensure that the individual is not allergic to bee stings. Once cleared, the therapy can commence, typically with just one or two stings in a controlled environment.

Personal Stories of Healing

The results, as Stephanie shares, can be near miraculous. She recalls the story of a biopsy site on her own leg that refused to heal. “After treating the area next to the sore with a bee sting, the improvement overnight was remarkable. It’s a testament to the power of natural remedies.” Her son, too, benefitted from bee venom when a painful cyst on his wrist resolved after treatment, highlighting the therapy’s effectiveness.

First-Hand Experience on Safety and Technique

Safety is paramount in bee venom therapy. Stephanie ensures that all procedures are conducted with the highest safety standards. “We always have an EpiPen and Benadryl on hand, and start with a test sting to ensure there’s no severe allergic reaction,” she notes. This cautious approach allows them to proceed confidently with the treatment, which involves icing the area to reduce initial pain and using distraction techniques to ease discomfort.

Educating and Expanding Knowledge

Beyond personal use, Stephanie is passionate about educating others on the benefits of bee venom therapy. She actively shares her knowledge at conferences and through online platforms, advocating for a broader understanding and acceptance of this natural therapeutic method.

Through her work, Stephanie has not only provided relief to many suffering from chronic conditions but also highlighted an unconventional, yet effective, method of healing. Her efforts at Tampa Bees demonstrate that sometimes nature offers the best medicine, especially when it comes in the form of a bee sting.

Entrepreneurial Buzz: Tips from the Hive

For those looking to start their own venture, Stephanie advises, “Wake up early, plan your week, set goals, and surround yourself with inspiring people.” She credits much of their success to strong community support and the willingness to seek and share knowledge continuously.

Addressing Misconceptions

Stephanie wants people to understand that beekeeping, especially bee removal, is hard work and not a free service. “It involves significant time, expertise, and resources. People often don’t realize the cost and effort that goes into rescuing and caring for bees,” she explains.

Continued Education and Advocacy

Stephanie never stops learning. From attending the American Beekeeping Federation Conference to participating in local beekeeping meetings, she is committed to staying informed and prepared, especially as new threats emerge, like the Yellow-legged Hornet found recently in Georgia.

Tampa Bees is more than just a business; it’s a testament to one family’s dedication to sustainability, education, and the well-being of bees. Through their efforts, they hope not just to produce honey and educate people, but to inspire a greater respect and care for nature.

For those interested in learning more about bees, or even trying some locally produced honey, Tampa Bees welcomes you to buzz on by.

Brody Wooddell is the lead Digital Content Producer for Bloom Tampa Bay. You can reach him at BWooddell@wfla.com.

A Day with the Bees: Suiting Up and Sweet Rewards

Gayle and Brody
Gayle and Brody

On a bright Florida afternoon, Gayle Guyardo, the host of Bloom, and I set off to meet Stephanie Ramthun for an up-close and personal encounter with the busiest residents of Tampa Bay—the honey bees of Tampa Bees. The location? A picturesque former Girl Scout camp, reimagined as a buzzing bee paradise.

As we arrived, Stephanie greeted us with beekeeper suits that promised an adventure. Clad in these suits, we looked like astronauts ready to explore an alien world—except this world was teeming with tens of thousands of bees, and the only space we were exploring was the tiny gap between us and a hive!

The suits, while a fashion statement in the bee world, turned out to be our personal saunas. As the Florida sun beat down, we quickly learned that beekeeping was not just about the birds and the bees, but also about sweating buckets—literally. But sweat aside, these suits were our knights in shining armor, keeping us safe as we delved into the hives.

Under Stephanie’s expert guidance, we ventured into the buzzing throngs. Pulling out the honeycombs was like uncovering hidden treasures—each frame dripping with golden, sticky honey, and vibrating with the collective hum of bees hard at work.

The real treat came when Stephanie offered us a taste of the fruits of our labor—or rather, the bees’ labor. Tasting honey straight from the comb is an experience like no other. It’s fresh, it’s raw, and it makes you wonder why bees don’t sell their own brand. The honey was so good, it was almost worth donning the sauna suit again.

Throughout the day, not one of us felt the sting of a bee, only the sting of regret that we couldn’t take the whole hive home. We left with a deeper appreciation for beekeepers and the intricate world of bees. The lesson of the day? A little sweat and a lot of bees can lead to some sweet rewards—and not getting stung is just the honey on top.

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