Yvonna Kopacz-Wright has appeared in various t.v. shows and movies such as Damages, Unforgettable and the film Perfect Stranger. She has had a recurring role on Blue Bloods as Detective Ava Hotchkiss and is currently appearing on Law and Order: SVU as Dr. Darby Wilder.
Yvonna is also a beekeeper who is extremely passionate about educating others on the current situation of the honey bee, including what we can do to help them from becoming extinct.
Van Buren: What inspired you to take up beekeeping?
Kopacz-Wright: My husband, two daughters and I moved out of New York City five years ago. We found an old farmhouse with six acres. We had seen a documentary on Netflix about the declining bee population. We decided, why not try beekeeping. When I mentioned it to my husband, I really thought he was going to say no. Instead he said yeah, let’s do it. My daughters were not on board. They were 9 and 10.
We went to some amazing beekeeping courses and we learned everything we needed to start our hives.
Van Buren: Deciding where to position the hives and considering the flight pattern are just a few things to consider. What are some other things that needed to be determined beforehand?
Kopacz-Wright: I would consider your neighbors. We decided to put ours in the back, sort of in the woods. Now people know that bees are not doing well so neighbors will be happy to actually have beekeepers around. But there are some that are nervous or allergic. If you have them, the best thing to do is talk to them and see how they feel about it.
You also need to position the hive so that it gets as much sun as possible. In the winter months, especially on the East Coast, it gets very cold and they need as much heat as possible. We usually try to place the entrance on the east where the sun rises.
Beekeepers should keep a pool of water, like a birdbath or something similar that bees can go to, so they’re not going to your neighbors pool.
You have to do hive checks every couple weeks during the spring and summer months. You have to see if the queen is laying properly and treat them for mites, which is very common.
Van Buren: Where do you get your bees?
Kopacz-Wright: We purchase our bees from a place called Betterbee. The bees that we get are either from California or Georgia. We’ve started looking into getting more local bees. We’re looking to see if we can create a bee species that is mite resistant. That’s sort of the next step in beekeeping all over the world.
Van Buren: Were you afraid of the bees when you first started out as a beekeeper? If so, how did you overcome that fear?
Kopacz-Wright: The first year I did not get stung. The kids have never been stung. When you’re working with the bees, there’s just a respect and also a knowing. You know when the bees are going to sting you, and you just give them a little more smoke or you close the hive and walk away.
I was absolutely nervous to start beekeeping. Up until about a year ago I would keep my phone on some yoga music and calmly go down. I’ve had some scary moments where I’ve had to walk away. They can feel when you’re breathing hard. They don’t like the carbon dioxide that’s produced when you’re exhaling.
Honeybees are gentle, they don’t want to sting you. They will only sting you if you’re swatting or hitting at them. You literally could stand beside honeybees while they’re pollinating and they won’t bother you. If they do feel threatened they will give you a warning sign. Usually they’ll buzz by your ear or face and then you move a way. They know that if they sting you, they will die.
Van Buren: How did Lomar Farms come to be?
Kopacz-Wright: It just seemed right to be able to be beekeepers and to really use the products from the bees. Bees are miraculous. The honey is antibacterial, antimicrobial and it’s so good for you. It takes care of allergies and so many other things. People put it on burns, it’s extremely healing for the skin.
The beeswax is also magical. When beeswax is burned it releases negative ions that connect to the positive ions in the air, which are allergens and mold. It brings them down and out of the air. After I learned that I was completely hooked, it was a natural progression to build the business around it.
The name Lomar Farms, comes from my older daughter Lola and younger daughter Marley.
Van Buren: Why is there a decline in the bee population?
Kopacz-Wright: The biggest issue that we have is the pesticides that we use. There’s a special kind of pesticide called Neonicotinoids. They’re particularly dangerous to honeybees.
We’ve been doing our best to let people know not to buy these products. There’s a declining area for bees to eat. That includes highways, where they’re making lawns instead of just wildflowers. There are some places now that are just doing wildflowers and not really cutting the grass as much. For many bees, the first thing they’ll eat in the season are the daffodils and dandelions and we consider those weeds. A lot of times you cut the grass and they won’t grow.
There are a lot of initiatives that are letting the daffodils and the dandelions grow and then cutting them after they flower. There’s the mites. Mites can kill off entire hives; there’s about 30,000 to 50,000 bees in one hive.
Van Buren: What would happen if we didn’t have bees?
Kopacz-Wright: Basically without bees and other pollinators you wouldn’t have any flowering plants. There would be no almonds, blueberries, apples or oranges. Bees are responsible for pollinating one- third of the world’s crops. That’s a lot of crops that would not be around if we didn’t have pollinators.
Van Buren: What’s the most fulfilling part about being a beekeeper?
Kopacz-Wright: It’s one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had besides being a mother. I didn’t know I could enjoy work so much. Acting to me is like playtime. Building this business around the bees and the advocacy for saving the bees has been heartwarming. I feel like I’ve been chosen to be a voice for this mission. I feel blessed.
Van Buren: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Kopacz-Wright: I would say always listen to your instincts. Always know that whatever your gut instincts are about everything is right. You go through such a huge part of life questioning who you are or what you want to do and I truly believe that you know deep down inside. If you can just quiet the mind the answers will come.
Lomar Farms offers handmade beeswax candles and other products. Be sure to check out Lomar Farms by visiting: https://www.lomarfarms.com/ for your holiday and gift needs.