LAKE MONTEZUMA - Lake Montezuma resident Bella Donna takes her health more seriously than the average person. That is why she has been a beekeeper since 2008.
Bella Donna, who has worked for many years as an oriental bodywork therapist, found that honey has certain restorative qualities that would be good for her clients. The best way Bella Donna could serve her clients, she decided, would be to raise her own bees.
"I do natural health care," she says. "I encourage people to use natural products, including honey. My ultimate goal was to have my own honey, so I would know the quality of it. I've realized that there are different qualities of honey, like apples, like eggs. For my clients, I want to have good quality."
With the honey produced by her own bees, Bella Donna has created what she calls Super Honey. In the honey, she mixes seven super foods she says help boost energy and healing.
"I have people in Florida buying it, telling me that their allergies are clearing up," she says. "I have people all over who are buying it."
Bella Donna admits that it is not easy to raise bees in the Arizona desert. She says that heat, water and food are the greatest challenges.
"I'm with them every day, making sure they have water sources," she says. "I am preserving water from my irrigation to feed plants and to have water for my bees."
"I'm checking them all day long," Bella Donna says. "Some beekeepers have hives scattered all around and they check them once a month. But that's a more standard beekeeping practice."
When Bella Donna is not outside with her bees, she spends time each day reading up on them. In total, Bella Donna says she spends as much as four hours each day with her bees.
Bella Donna checks on her bees each morning, sometimes as early as before dawn. It is the very first thing she does each day.
"The bees are outside, on the other side of my bedroom window," she says. "I open the blinds and I check on them like a baby. I don't eat. I don't do anything. I check on my bees [first]. I make sure they have enough water."
And she talks to her bees. That is why one of her Facebook friends calls her the Bee Whisperer.
"They are like teenagers," she says. "By the afternoon, they need human intervention. I make sure they have food and water. I tell them that I love them all the time. There is energy in our words."
"Not everybody talks to their bees," Bella Donna says. "I've met beekeepers. Some are mostly commercial beekeepers. For most, it's all about the money."
Though money is not Bella Donna's motivation, she is trying to make a living. Bella Donna recently had a workshop at her home, teaching her clients about bees. Most of Bella Donna's clients have known her for years.
"Bees are creatures of habit," Camp Verde resident Elena Espinosa says. She learned from Bella Donna. "We went outside, saw the hives, and Bella explained that the bees are set in their ways."
"I've always been interested in bees and the property of honey," says Denise Malavasi of Scottsdale. "Depending on what bees feed on, the honey tastes different. Knowing about the quality of honey and where the bees come from, you want good quality honey. They are beautiful animals, in a way. They make good honey, and like Pooh Bear, I like my honey.""They are like teenagers. By the afternoon, they need human intervention."