Beekeeper The not so secret life of Bert Kelley’s bees
story by Sarah Nederveld photography by Tina Sargeant
short drive down a dirt and gravel road off of Old Highway 37, you’ll find one of Lakeland’s hidden treasures. Barely visible from the road, Kelley’s Apiaries are housed in an unassuming block building surrounded by a few trailers, stately scrub oaks, and row upon row of weathered bee boxes. Bert Kelley acquired the apiaries from Joe Bradley in 2002, but Mr. Kelley’s interest in beekeeping and honey production began many years before. Bert grew up in Bartow, and during his high school years he studied drafting and considered becoming an architect, but during college he signed up for the Navy. After seven years in the Navy Nuclear program, he settled into working in a heating and airconditioning business. Agriculture studies and beekeeping had never crossed Bert’s mind until a fateful trip with friends in 1980. Sitting in his office, the window unit blowing cold air through the room, he recalls the trip from New Orleans to Tallahassee that would begin his fascination in beekeeping. As he describes the trip with a deep sigh and wide smile, it’s evident these are fond memories. He and his wife, Caryl, stopped to visit an old friend in north Florida who had just begun his first hive. Wanting to learn more, Bert borrowed a book on beekeeping. He immersed himself in learning all he could about bees.
THE LAKELANDER 67