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Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper

For All Your Bee’s Needs

Since the middle of the last century, San Francisco has been known for its progressive political beliefs. Over the past few decades, it’s also been identified as a foodie haven. It only seems natural that in a blending of the two the city’s residents have embraced the urban gardening phenomena, the movement toward sustainably raising a certain amount of your own food within the limits of a major city.

Though livestock such as goats might seem an unrealistic choice for most people in San Francisco, chickens and bees are a little more accessible for someone who wants to start an urban farm. And though you might think that San Francisco isn’t a good place to keep bees because of the chill and the fog, its temperate Mediterranean climate and a continuous flowering of flora throughout 10 months of the year, makes it possible to keep bees here, especially in “banana belt” neighborhoods like the Mission and Noe Valley. Bee boxes can be found throughout the city and there are currently about 180 members in the San Francisco Beekeeper’s Association.

Where does one find all the supplies you ask? Fortunately for aspiring apiarists, Cameo Wood opened Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper on 20th Street between Mission and Valencia Streets a couple of months ago, stocked with beekeeping supplies and many other items made with honey or beeswax.

The bad economy seems to lend itself to creative reinventions of careers. In Cameo’s case, after she lost her job late last year, she explored a few different avenues for hobbies that could perhaps be turned into careers, and these careers happened to involve costumes, such as falconry. Finding falconry a bit hard, she turned to beekeeping.

Being that the winter months are the only time of the year here when there isn’t much to do in regards to beekeeping, Cameo waited to learn the trade. She quickly made the transition to shopkeeper after finding that there was a need for a retail supply store.

In the shop, beekeepers can find supplies such as hive components, honey extractors and books. The casual shopper can purchase honeys and honeycomb from local hives, fruit spreads, medicinal pollen, candles, and more.

Though the decorations in the shop are minimal -- mostly bare white walls, a few throw rugs and track lighting -- the artwork covering the space behind the register and also punctuating a few points throughout the shop are rich and dreamy. The Art Nouveau/Steampunk inspired illustrations with bee-related motifs are by local artist Kiriko Moth and should not be missed. You can even pick up a couple of her postcards when you visit the store.

If you’re interested in getting started as a beekeeper, the initial investment in gear will cost you approximately $500. A jacket, for example, will run you around $119. In the future protective gear rentals will be available.

Periodicals such as Bee Craft ($10) and Bee Culture ($5), plus books like Beekeeping for Dummies ($20) and The Honey Bee Inside Out ($39) are available to educate and inform.

In addition, everyone can enjoy the fruits of the beekeepers’ labors and purchase a variety of neighborhood honeys from places such as Noe Valley ($8) or Glen Park ($12). Other choices from the greater Bay Area and beyond include kosher honey ($10) and honey combs from Snyder’s ($14) and Marshall’s Farm ($26).

Other bee-related items include propolis gum ($7), healing salve ($10) and muscle balm ($10).

The store also offers classes run by a variety of local experts. Recently they held a mead making class ($45), but other classes include candle making, salve and balm and bee keeping. Most classes will run $30-$50. Sign up early as classes are limited to 15 students and there are no walk-ins. Upcoming classes include Kids & Bees ($30) where children can learn all about bees and even get to taste honey. Pollinator Paradise ($40) will be an introduction to native bees and pollination ecology.

Also, the store’s subscription program offers different honeys each month. For August it’s Oregon Orchard Honey. Next month it’s Summer Truffle Infused Honey. Check the website for details.