Despite threats to bees, Beloit business still successful

Staff writer

BELOIT — Terri and Dan Dodge, with the help of their grandchildren Sam and Sara Clark, spent Friday, June 30, packing up their soaps, lip balms, honey, essential oils and other products to sell at the Beloit Farmer’s Market on Saturday. It’s a tradition that goes back years.

This includes taking inventory, putting on labels and packing up the products. It’s a whole family affair.

Despite concerns about bee colony collapse, the Dodges say their business Double D’s B’s is doing very well. They sell their products, made from the honey and wax of bees, every Saturday during the market and also offer classes on Saturdays after the market ends in October.

However, that doesn’t mean there is no cause for concern. In fact, their biggest concern is mites. For example, in one year, they lost 80 percent of their bees to the perfect storm of mites, not enough snow and a cold winter. Bees need snow for insulation from the cold, Dan Dodge said, so the mild winters haven’t helped the bees.

“This year, I’ve stepped up the whole mite program, because my overwintering has been terrible, and the reason my overwintering has been terrible is because of the mites,” Dan Dodge said.

Dan Dodge said he has to treat the hives in the spring and fall to prevent the mites from killing off the bees. This is a problem for beekeepers nationwide, and though killing the mites helps keep the bees alive it essentially doubles his amount of work.

Farming has also changed the game of bee keeping. With many farmers making sure to use every acre, there’s no more room left for wildflowers. More and more people are using pesticides in their yard and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in plants and flowers, both of which are harmful to bees. Though typically seen as a blemish, Terri Dodge said dandelions are very important for bees in the spring.

“Dandelions are the first thing in the spring that have both nectar and pollen, and that’s what sparks the queen to start laying,” Terri Dodge said. “So without the dandelions, they’re struggling.”

Nationally, another concern is transportation. When farmers move their bees around, and one is sick, they all may end up sick.

“It’s like sending your kid to kindergarten, and everyone is sick all of the time,” Terri Dodge said.

Even with these difficulties, Double D’s B’s is selling about 200 bars of soap at the Farmer’s Market every week.

Sara Clark, 13, said she helps make the soaps with her grandmother, while her brother, Sam, 12, works with his grandfather to extract the wax and honey.

“(Sam) can answer just about anything about the bees,” Terri Dodge said. “He likes to have the quiet, one-on-one time with his grandpa.”

Sara Clark has an intricate knowledge of the business’s 48 to 52 scents. She knows which ones are temperamental and when to act fast to preserve the perfect pungent aroma. If there’s a multi-colored soap, Sara jokes she’s probably had her hand in making it. Overall, she has an intimate knowledge of the more than 50 different soaps she and her grandmother make and can have the scents ready for her grandmother by the time she gets home from work.

Terri and Dan Dodge started their business 18 years ago making lip balms and eventually started selling at the Farmer’s Market a few years later. This was right around the time when colony collapses in California were being publicized, and Terri Dodge, with her accounting degree, thought buying bees this far out west would be profitable.

With their business being run primarily out of their home and at the Farmer’s Market, Terri Dodge said they’ve been approached to open a store downtown. While they’re both grateful for all of the support Beloit has given them, with her full-time job at Blackhawk Technical College, she and the rest of her family will continue to do what they love from home.

For more information on the family’s business, check out the Facebook page “Double D’s B’s.”