Made in Eastern Iowa: Battling bee and bottling honey in South Amana

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SOUTH AMANA, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Matt Stewart said that he got the curiosity for honey in a time where learning about it was a bit more "low tech" than firing up YouTube.

Matt and Patty Stewart have run Noble Bee Honey since 1990. He got into it, at first, for the pollination. Now the honey is all over grocery stores in Eastern Iowa.

He watched a video in the late 1980's on beekeeping. VHS-style.

All because of his wife, Patty, who wanted chickens instead on their South Amana property.

"She said 'I want to have chickens.' I don’t know nothing about chickens. Then I noticed our gardens aren’t doing anything so we needed honey bees. Then they said, “why don’t you just get your own?”

That led to Noble Bee Honey, the end product of hundreds of thousands of bees and Matt's quick work to try and check up on their output. Their white truck and white van, with the distinctive Noble Bee logo, are making the constant runs at grocery stories all throughout Eastern Iowa.

"It’s just like when they see me at the grocery store and say 'do you work for those people?' and I say 'we are those people!'," said Stewart. "Patty and I do it all from start to finish and we deliver our product because you can pay a distributor. You’ve got 'this much' shelf space at a grocery store, very expensive real estate for them. They don’t want to stock it themselves. Every week, we take to these stores."

Since starting Noble Bee in 1990, Matt Stewart says a reward comes in running a business and "not working for somebody else".

Of course, the risks of the job are constant when working with bees. Stewart talked about the 22 stings - only on his eyelids - he took in one particularly brutal day at the brood.

"They smelled the formic acid and that’s what set them off."

As for his "co-workers", if you will, Stewart has some advice for being around bees.

"Just work quick, only so many minutes when you put the smoker on them," said Stewart. "Don’t drop a frame. Don’t make mistakes. If you see a queen, put her in a place where she’s not going to get hurt."

When the honey comes in these batches, the slight variance from bottle to bottle is a product of the variables with each day. Noble Bee produces a variety of flavors, notably the buckwheat honey.

Noble Bee Honey is found in many grocery stores here in Eastern Iowa.