Backyard Beekeeping in the Beehive State

Close up of honey bee pollinating flower in the garden. Detail view of European honeybee pollinate flower on summer time. Macro shot. Spring scene. Bee collecting pollen from onion flower

When you think of beekeeping, you probably think of bees that produce that sweet golden elixir we all know and love called honey. However, did you know that there is a large population of native bees — ones that don’t make honey — living naturally in the Heber Valley?

That’s right: Utah is home to the largest concentrations and the most types of native bees in the nation!

“I saw a hive in someone’s backyard,” says Susie Goodspeed. “I was fascinated and hooked.” Goodspeed is the owner of Susie Bee Good Honey and is a veteran beekeeper of more than 10 years. She specializes in honey bees, as well as mason and leaf cutter bees, two native varieties that do well in our state. 

There are about 4,000 species of native bees in the United States.

Backyard beekeeping has come a long way in the past few decades. Supplies are now more accessible, and in the case of native bees, even more economical for beekeeping enthusiasts. Even though it’s more accessible than ever before, honey beekeeping is a tricky game for beginners. “I would recommend getting a mentor for a year,” advises Goodspeed. “Reading as much literature as possible really helped me get a better knowledge of what I was getting into.”

Getting a mentor, as well as taking a class or two, will better increase your chances of keeping your bees alive and happy. “A mentor can help you in deciding on what bees to get, where to put them and how to troubleshoot problems,” Goodspeed explains. Most beekeepers will still have a trial and error period to master the craft, but do not get discouraged — success will happen.

Beginners Go Native

Goodspeed recommends starting your backyard beekeeping hobby with native bees, and transition to honey bee hives only after you’ve gained beekeeping knowledge and experience. Native bees are gentler than honey bees because they do not have honey, the queen or a large brood (baby bees in the hive) to protect. As they are infinitely less aggressive, native bees are easier to keep alive.

Native bees are also more efficient pollinators than honey bees. While honey bees are only about 5 percent effective in their pollination efforts, native bees boast a 95 percent rate! This success rate is attributed to the fact that native bees concentrate their pollination efforts to a specific crop and they’re “hairier” than honey bees, which allows them to collect more pollen and cross-pollinate at higher rates. 

33% of our food supply — 100+ crops — are linked to pollination.

Spring mason bees, gentle bees that are dark iridescent blue, are perfect pollinators for orchards and berries fields, and are also well-suited for backyard beekeeping. They are among the some of the first bees to emerge in the spring, which makes them a good fit for backyard beekeepers who have fruit trees that need pollinating.

“They are super cross-pollinators that are hilarious to watch belly-flop onto flowers,” Goodspeed says. Mason bees are gentle, nonaggressive and don’t mind being watched. They’re perfect if you have children, who will love watching them fly in and out of their little “bee house.”

Another native bee, the summer leaf cutter, is great for the garden enthusiast. These bees are warmer weather bees that love to pollinate vegetables, fruits and other garden varieties. “They are a lot smaller and quite shy compared to the mason bee,” explains Goodspeed. If you’re looking to increase your yield on crops such as berries, tomatoes, peppers, legumes and squash, a leaf cutter hive is a good place to start.

Save The Bees, Get Some Honey

Most native bees can live side by side, which means you can have several varieties in your backyard that pollinate all season long. “You can help to save the bees by having a simple hive in your backyard,” says Goodspeed. “They don’t have to be honey bees, because they can be quite the investment for the hobbyist.”

If you don’t want to commit to keeping your own bees, you can contact a local beekeeper and they will happily let you house a hive or two on your property. Most beekeepers would gladly provide you with some honey at the end of the season in exchange. Talk about a sweet reward for providing a happy (bee) home! Be it honey bees or native bees, backyard beekeeping is a fun hobby that helps pollinate our great valley and saves our local bees. 

Imagine yourself on a warm summer evening, dining al fresco under twinkly cafe lights with a light breeze blowing. A bearded man plays a recognizable tune on his guitar from the corner of the patio, softly serenading you as you dine on dish after dish of delectable cuisine. The sun is setting beyond the trees, a lush green lawn spreads out beneath you like a blanket, and the glow of chandeliers from inside is illuminating your table as the stars slowly start to appear.

Now imagine that you don’t have to imagine it at all! You can find all of this right in our valley at Midway’s The Corner Restaurant. Although a new fixture on Midway’s main drag, The Corner Restaurant carries a long history. Longtime residents may remember when former mayor Gene Probst and his wife Darlene owned the Burgermeister restaurant in the heart of Midway. The Burgermeister (which means “mayor” in German) was a cozy gathering place where people could eat good home-cooked food and make memories, and many people did until 1997 when it closed down. The couple’s grandson, Burkley Probst, grew up at the Burgermeister and really missed Midway’s family gathering spot. He decided in 2017 that Midway still needed that sort of community place where friends and family could gather together and make memories over a table of great food. Together with his dad, Karl, he opened The Corner Restaurant.

In 2018 when plans to renovate an old home into a restaurant were deemed implausible, Burkley and Karl enlisted the expertise of local architectural firm Lythgoe Design to build from the ground up. Together they created a new space with elements of community and family thoughtfully incorporated into the building. The result was a restaurant with sleek design that was both welcoming and meaningful. Visitors can instantly pick up on the warm decor and inviting space that The Corner Restaurant provides, but most don’t know the effort that has gone into creating all the special touches housed within the building. For example, the front door faces the Midway Town Hall, which the majority regards as the heart of the town. The stone on the front of the building is potrock, a stone native to Midway, found when excavating the site where the building now stands. Even the gladiolas at the counter when you walk in pay homage to Darlene Probst, Burkley’s now deceased grandmother and original owner of the Burgermeister. They were her favorite flower.

Their menu is rife with comfort food and good ole’ Americana cuisine, but with a strong foodie influence. A touch of paprika oil gives that extra something to the clam chowder, and a blackberry chipotle barbeque sauce brings a sweet and savory kick to their chicken drumettes. Those who remember the original Burgermeister Ham & Swiss will not be disappointed, because it’s on the menu too! Years of history in the making blend the old and new into The Corner’s menu, and you can feel the perfect balance of old and comfortable with new and trendy.

My favorite thing about The Corner Restaurant is the ambiance. Inside, the natural woods and chandeliers warm the space. The staff has taken care to ensure that surfaces are sanitized and that they are adhering to all health and safety recommendations. Now, in the age of social distancing, the patio is the perfect place for those who feel safer in the open air of outdoor dining. Those adhering to stringent precautions can still enjoy The Corner’s delicious food by partaking in the extensive take-out menu. You will miss out on the twinkly lights and the cool breeze, but you can still enjoy a hearty stroganoff or a nice steak dinner without having to do the dishes.

The Corner Restaurant is a family. Burkley is the front-of-house manager, and Karl is the pastry chef, baking those delicious bread rolls (his wife’s recipe) and whipping up cream pies. Cousins, Carol and John, work with the financials. Burkley’s wife and Karl’s wife and daughter are also part of the team. And those who are not blood-related are part of the family as well. Everyone who works there loves talking with the patrons and hearing their stories, sharing the delicious home-cooked family recipes, celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries, and welcoming them to the family.

The Corner Restaurant is located at 195 West Main Street in Midway. For more information, check out midwaycorner.com.