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Updated: March 28, 2022 @ 12:18 pm
Mary Garrison happily rescues thousands of bees and their honey. 
Mary Garrison lights the bee smoker before getting in her bee suit. 
Mary Garrison, Katherine Canada, and Lenny Glidewell outside of Glidewell’s home. Glidewell came home and found thousands of bees inside and outside.  
Just some of the gallons of honey, bees, and honeycomb recovered in a Pinehurst home. 
Mary Garrison happily rescues thousands of bees and their honey. 
When Vass beekeeper Mary Garrison slowly stood up, her worn leather boots did not move with her. A puddle of honey had cemented her to her spot in the attic.
After a little over eight hours, Garrison’s bee suit was no longer white but a golden blend of honey, sweat and bees. Thousands and thousands of bees. She gently scooped each of the bees into her gloved hands.
President Jimmy Carter first established March as a time to recognize American women. The 1980 proclamation read, “The courage and strength of the women who built America is as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
Thousands of years ago, the stories of matriarchal societies were reverently passed from mother to little girl. When society was exclusively dominated by men, strong women held tightly to the myths, truths and traditions that a woman could be a primary source of power — Nubian queens, Amazonian warriors, Biblical tour de forces, the Chinese Mosuo, Steel Magnolias. As Sally Field’s character, M’Lynn, said in the 1989 movie, “I find it amusing. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something.”
Back to the bees.
Garrison and Katherine Canada have been friends for two years now. It is a logical friendship, since Garrison loves bees and Katherine owns Reverie Hill Flower Farm in Carthage. They both can rattle off more bee facts than The Bee Movie.
A few days ago, Pinehurst resident Lenny Glidewell, the only human male in this adventure, reached out to the Moore County Bee Club with a dilemma: honey was oozing from his rafters and dripping down his brick exterior wall.
Garrison and Canada picked up the scent and right away went to assess the situation.
With a home in Biloxi, Glidewell had spent the last nine months away. This time, instead of the cat being away so that the mice could play, the retired CPA was away so that the bees could have a field day.
Just like the victims of the Nubian warriors must have been, Glidewell seemed a little surprised that two young mothers, one in sage overalls and the other in a “Lady Farmer” T-shirt, arrived on his doorstep, armed and determined to rescue both the bees and his 9,000-square-foot home.
Women at Work
Mary Garrison lights the bee smoker before getting in her bee suit. 
With two two-story ladders placed directly on top of the trail of honey and above the cloud of bees, Canada and Garrison wriggled into their heavy-duty beekeeping suits and zipped each other’s veils. After a once-over searching for bee-holes or gaps in their protective wear, they climbed their ladders.
With a smoker, bee tools and crowbars in hand, they began the process 16 feet up. The bees seemed to pause and almost instinctively look toward these possible marshmallows. Garrison quietly said, “Hello, worker bees.”
Garrison began squeezing the smoke into a hole in the roof — to calm the bees — and above the dormer where the bees had set up shop. Worker bees, all female, make up 99 percent of the hive, do all of the work and have a variety of jobs, including gathering pollen into the pollen baskets on their back legs and carrying it back to the hive where it is used as food.
Garrison leaned over the ladder and announced to anyone who was listening, “So much of our world’s food supply depends on these honey bees.” Then she and Canada discussed carpool schedules and what kid was where at the moment.
The Hidden Hive
Mary Garrison, Katherine Canada, and Lenny Glidewell outside of Glidewell’s home. Glidewell came home and found thousands of bees inside and outside.  
A bee smoker resembles an old sugar dispenser attached to part of an accordion. While that piece seems a little primitive, the precision that Garrison displayed in her tasks seemed almost surgical.
After about an hour of removing pieces of the flashing and shingles above the gable in a cloud of bees, the women asked Glidewell for a small saw. Glidewell, still dubious of these Michelin women above him, had not left the small plat of land where the ladders were placed. Even after he was stung, he offered up advice — lots of loud advice.
With a bigger hole, a bigger cloud of bees hovered above the ladders. As Canada handed the instruments to Garrison, she paused and a decision was made.
“Mr. Glidewell,” Garrison said, “we are going to need to get inside the house.”
After a winding walk into the house and up the grand staircase, Glidewell, relinquishing yet another power to this matriarchy, pointed to a bookshelf.
A bit confused, Canada and Garrison paused. Glidewell then touched the bookshelf and the wall opened. Behind the faux bookshelf was a gift room — “My wife Joy loves giving presents” — and behind that, the Christmas room — “Joy really loves Christmas”– and behind that, two doors that led directly to the massive hive hidden in the dormers of the house.
Beauty of the Bee
Just some of the gallons of honey, bees, and honeycomb recovered in a Pinehurst home. 
One door revealed honeycomb after honeycomb, and one door revealed a buzzing that required louder voices — that’s if anyone could bring themselves away from the trance-like whir of the wingbeats of thousands of bees.
Garrison talked to and about bees the entirety of her extraction. She can’t help herself. She wants everyone to “slow down and recognize how we are so closely intertwined with the bees.”
She believes that if we can look closer at the bee, both individually and as a community, we can learn from their endless benefits.
She stopped for a moment and brought out a briefcase-sized piece of honeycomb covered in bees and seeping honey, “No other species out there builds these architecturally sound designs. These hexagons are perfect.”
As she scoured the pieces of honeycomb, she seemed to be teaching Bee 101 to the unblinking Christmas bear and snowman in the corner.
“Look at these bigger bees flying up there; those are the males, the drones. Don’t worry — they don’t sting or do much. Their one job is to mate with the queen.”
As the day wore on, Canada took a break while Garrison soldiered on, filling bucket after bucket with rich honey comb and sweet smelling honey. She gently scooped up the bees as well. Most of this day she is covered with bees and honey.
The Lesson of Willabee
Canada pushed down her bee suit to breathe in the fresh air in the upstairs hall of the Glidewell home. Joy is cooking something downstairs and the mix of dinner and honey is intoxicating.
Canada is tired. “Mary won’t stop. She might come back tomorrow, but she won’t stop. She loves rescuing bees. Even her farmer’s market is named after this little bee she imagined — Willabee.”
Willabee is a drone bee who can’t fly because his wing is deformed from a mite bite (very common.) He is terribly sad because he can’t do the only thing he knows to do: mate with the queen. He decides to make the most of his unique situation and walk around teaching all of nature’s beings about bees. He wants to plant literal and figurative seeds of awareness and sustainable habits so that the world can cultivate change. Willabee loves to ask questions, and Garrison’s idea for a new market — called Willabee’s — will answer all the questions behind its products.
Garrison will stop talking about bees, but only to talk about Willabee’s Market.
Willabee’s opens on Earth Day, April 22, in Vass. The first of its kind in the area, Willabee’s will have fresh local produce from farmers who work with the land to regenerate it, seasonal baked goods, farm eggs and UpDog Kombucha. Offering “almost every basic household necessity by the ounce, you can bring your own container and fill up.”
Willabee Market will be “a zero waste market and just like a bee, we want to leave things in better shape than we found them.”
The Queen’s Gambit
Garrison is done talking, and once she shoos out the few bees that have made their way into her suit — and stung her — she is back inside, her job not yet complete.
She wanted to get all of the bees and the honey out of the house, so that they will not be destroyed when the house and roof are repaired. She still has not seen the queen bee. She appreciates Glidewell’s choice to save the bees.
Each hive has one queen bee that is responsible for creating new bees. She mates with several drones, then lays eggs every day. The worker bees cater to her every need. She lives about 2-5 years and lays about 1,500-2,000 eggs per day at her peak.
Once the queen gets too old, the worker bees will decide to create a new queen. Unlike workers, she can sting multiple times and survive. Her stinger is also used during the process of laying eggs, positioning eggs and fighting other queens. Generally, though, queens are docile and rarely sting beekeepers.
Unbeknownst to much of the casual bee fans, the queen is not always captured. As Canada and Garrison finally pack up for the evening, Garrison makes plans to come back the next day to complete her task.
Matriarchal societies don’t seem as far-fetched as they once did. Little girls don’t need myths to encourage dreams. The Moore County beekeepers led the charge and won, preserving the bees, securing the honey and keeping their small piece of the planet buzzing. The queen bee had her own terms of victory: she decided that she did not want to be captured and won.
Leading looks different depending on the charge, the man or the woman. Perhaps Saint Chrysostom summarized this unsung feminine strength best: “the bee is more honored than others…not because she labors, but because she labors for others.”
Willabee’s Market, located at 120 Alma St. in Vass, will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 a.m. to 3 p.m., starting April 22. 
Contact Sam Hudson at (910) 693-2462 or Sam@thepilot.com.
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