Miriana Andreeva maintains a beehive in the backyard of her Forest Hills home. Jill Broussard

Gardening

One Dallas Woman’s Journey to Backyard Beekeeping

Miriana Andreeva couldn’t convince her fiancé to put chickens in the backyard. So she got bees instead.

Miriana Andreeva is a friend to the animals. While tending her garden at her Forest Hills home, her chocolate lab, Cocoa, follows at her feet. But Cocoa’s not the only creature she’s tending to. Andreeva keeps a beehive in the backyard, tucked behind a wilderness of plants for them to feed on: stevia, salvia, peonies, roses, herbs, and holly.

Andreeva suits up to open the hive, which she checks every eight weeks.

“It was something I was always interested in doing, but I had to get my better half on board as well,” says Andreeva,  who works in client relations at Christopher Peacock Homes. “The joke is that I wanted chickens—and I still want chickens—but he wouldn’t let me have them. So we could agree on bees.” Truth be told, Andreeva, a Bulgaria native, grew up around beekeeping, which is a common practice in the country. When her interest grew serious, she soaked up any research she could find—blogs, Facebook pages, and local educational classes. Once she and her fiancé, Nils Benson, were set on it, her soon-to-be father-in-law built them a hive.

“It was a rainy spring [when we started], so we went the whole year without harvesting anything,” she says. “We made the choice to let them establish.” When it was time to harvest, Andreeva and Benson collected 45 pounds of honey from one hive—which, surprisingly, Andreeva calls an “average” amount. “It’s more incorporating [the bees] into the ecosystem we’ve created in the backyard rather than doing it first and foremost for harvesting honey,” she adds. She leaves the honey unfiltered and on the comb, meaning the wax and pollen cells are still in the honey when she collects it. The result is a darker color and a chewier texture—the way she remembers it in Bulgaria. It all comes down to taste and personal preference. 

The frameless hive means the combs develop naturally on a bar. The final product is left unfiltered, so the dark color and waxy texture remain.

Andreeva takes that same natural approach to just about every part of her beekeeping—her hive is “frameless,” meaning the comb is built on a bar, and she doesn’t supplement her bees with sugar feeding. With all her plants in the backyard and her location near the Dallas Arboretum, she simply doesn’t need to. “There’s a plethora of options for them to forage freely,” she says. “That creates a very complex taste in the honey.” Andreeva has a “morning routine” that includes eating a little bit of the honey each day—which not only provides nutritional benefits but also helps with seasonal allergies. She also gives honey as gifts to friends. But it’s the educational aspect she really loves.

Andreeva occasionally uses smoke to keep the bees working while she opens the hive to check on them.

“There is a whole realm of things you become aware of when you keep bees and the seasonality of it—it makes you more in tune with what’s going on,” she says. “Even in a daily sense.” Though Andreeva only opens the hive about every eight weeks to check on the bees, she still monitors weather conditions, humidity, blooming plants, and “traffic patterns” of the bees buzzing in and out of the hive constantly.

Andreeva’s wide variety of plants ensures that her bees have plenty of food source, no matter the season.

Andreeva spent about six months soaking up information prior to taking on the bees, which she’s had for three years. But just last May, she lost one of her original two hives when the bees became aggressive. To get the bees removed in a safe manner, she called a beekeeper who had enough land to house them and successfully “requeen” them. It’s a disappointment, but Andreeva says that’s part of the process.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” she says. “Most people call it a quiet hobby, but in actuality, I think it’s perfect for adrenaline junkies. It’s calming, but it’s also very intense and exciting.”

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