Hi! My name is Sixtine Foucaut, and I’m a senior with a double major in Communication Studies and Spanish, and a minor in Environmental Studies. I’m also in Chapman’s Accelerated Graduate Program pursuing a Masters in International Studies. Since this is my last semester as an undergraduate student, I spent some time this summer looking for internships I could complete this fall semester, hoping I would find something exciting in the midst of the pandemic. As soon as I heard about an internship opportunity through my job at Chapman’s Office of Sustainability, I was eager to apply. I would be spending my semester interning with Backyard Bees – a small, women-owned, local, and sustainable business based right here in Orange. This would mean I would learn how a small business communicates with their customers, work at the Orange Home Grown Farmers Market, bottle honey, make small batch beeswax products, learn how a business runs their social media, and most importantly get to work with honeybees.
Upon reading the internship description, I knew I had found the right internship for me as I would be doing tasks outside of my comfort zone which would allow me to utilize my passions of environmentalism, languages and, of course, communication skills. I was also happy to know that I would be the only intern for the company, working with Nikki Morgan, a 2016 Chapman graduate who majored in Environmental Science. She is the head beekeeper of the company, manages about 100 hives in 30 locations in Orange County, runs the booth at the farmers market, conducts tours of the garden and honey house, and makes the beeswax products out of Orange Park Acres, where the founder of the company, Janet Andrews, is based.
I quickly learned there would not really be a “typical day in the office” from my very first day of the internship where Nikki and I had to unexpectedly corral one of her escaped chickens – quite the exciting first task for me. The four main tasks I would learn would include safely maintaining, removing, and relocating bee hives and communicating with the residents, bottling honey, producing organic and eco-friendly beeswax cosmetic products, and representing the company at the Orange Home Grown Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
The way the company works is that local residents request beehives to be placed in their backyard in exchange for 10% of their hives’ honey and the natural pollination of their plants from the bees. Nikki and I would drive to these locations to check up on, relocate, or remove beehives. When checking up on the beehives, we would first suit up in our mesh beekeeper suits, knee-high boots, and two pairs of gloves, then start the smoker device, which calms the bees’ fear pheromone so that they are not as alarmed and less likely to sting us. We then assess how the bees are doing in their hive, a surprisingly therapeutic activity, and replace the frames full of honey with empty sticky frames in order for the bees to fill the hexagonal spaces with nectar, pollen, and honey, and repeat the process. We would then bring the honey frames back to the honey house to spin and drain the frames in order to bottle this unfiltered, raw, fragrant, and sweet liquid gold.
On the days we weren’t beekeeping, I would learn to prepare beeswax products in addition to the honey and honeycomb to sell at the farmer’s market, online, and at a few local businesses. All of the beeswax-based products are made in small batches with added organic essential oils – from the lip balm, body lotion, and beeswax balm, to the shampoo bar, sunscreen, dog soap bar, natural deodorant and more. Nikki and I sell these products at the market, interacting with OC locals, Chapman students, and visitors, where I have been able to use my persuasive communication skills as well as Spanish and French with shoppers interested in our products.
I have loved every moment of learning how Backyard Bees operates, how to safely work with the bees to protect them, the importance of these pollinators for the environment and our planet, and the consumer value of natural products and small businesses because of the care, effort, and thought put into each product. I am so incredibly grateful for my internship experience with this small local business, so much so that I will be continuing to work with the company next semester because I have developed a newfound love for the bees and the ability to combine my passions for communication and the environment!