Shelley Lugg's life-long fascination with bees led to her marriage and a rewarding career as a beekeeper.
Shelley is married to long-time orchardist Harold Swartz and owns and operates Dew Fresh Honey located at 17085 Highway 97 North in Osoyoos.
"We met six years ago when I put bees into his orchard for pollination," Shelley said. "Our later-in-life marriage is working well. He helps me and I help him."
Listening to music while working in the honey house is something they both enjoy.
"I've always been fascinated by bees," said Shelley.
As a child, she spent time on the farms of extended family members in Alberta.
Not until her early 30s and after a couple of undergraduate university degrees, however, did Shelley find her calling.
The light went on when she was working at a dead-end job in an Ottawa hospital and a colleague asked her, "What do you really want to do?"
"I want to keep bees," she replied without blinking an eye.
The realization prompted Shelley to move to Calgary where she started saving money to get started as a beekeeper.
She sold fruit, vegetables and honey she had bought from other bee keepers at a farmers' market.
"I met an older beekeeper there who was retiring and he helped me get set up," she said.
She also met Oliver farmers who sold their fruit at neighbouring stalls.
"Why don't you move to B.C.?" they asked.
Shelley like the idea so she had her hives transported to Oliver on a semi-trailer.
She arrived in her pickup, loaded with equipment. When she and Harold married five years ago, she moved to his home in Osoyoos.
"I built the honey house myself," Shelley said.
Time permitting, she wants to add a loading dock and storage facilities.
Considering that she has approximately 300 hives and also purchases honey from other beekeepers to process and sell under her label, the dock might not be built right away.
Her traditional, meticulous method of bee keeping and honey processing and packing also requires a lot of time.
Shelley's hives are placed in groups of 10-12 in over two dozen apiary sites, each surrounded by an electric fence to keep bears out.
In contrast to the usual practice of feeding bees sugar syrup, Shelley leaves enough honey in the hives to sustain the bees throughout the winter.
In the spring, the bees are used as pollinators in orchards.
Sweet clover, alfalfa and sage are the main sources of nectar Shelley's bees use to make honey.
The amount of nectar a plant produces is directly related to rainfall which means a short season for honey producers in the dry Okanagan.
"We're low in quantity, but high in quality," Shelley said.
Shelley does not use pumps and hand packs her certified organic honey into jars without the use of heat.
Heat causes the enzymes in honey to be destroyed and it changes the flavour she explained.
"My honey tastes like it is fresh from the honeycomb," she said.
Shelly encourages women to take up bee keeping as it is not as physically demanding as many think.
Dew Fresh Honey is available at produce stands and several grocery stores throughout the Okanagan and at numerous, mainly Asian, fresh produce stores in Vancouver. Shelley also sells wholesale to vendors at Vancouver area farmers' markets.
Most Saturdays May through October, Shelley is at Penticton's Downtown Community Market. For information email