Captain Andrew Lutz and First Officer Blythe Nakasone may fly out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, but when they’re together at the apiary, their attention turns to a different sort of flight – the kind that carries a sweet cargo of nectar from flower to hive.
Andrew and Blythe, who married this September, are beekeepers. They tend their bees on a friend’s farm adjacent to CVG airport.
“Beekeeping is a lot like flying,” said Andrew, who flies 777s with Southern Air. “There is always more to learn. You never know everything there is to know about it.”
While Blythe is still new to the hobby, Andrew has been around beekeeping most of his life. His father, who tended bees on the family farm in central Kentucky, picked up the hobby from his father-in-law, Andrew’s grandfather.
Andrew remembers a time, when he was around seven years old, that all of his father’s bees died off and he had to stop beekeeping.
“It was the early ‘90s,” Andrew said. “The mites moved through this area, and it decimated the hives. Nobody knew what to do about it.”
A few years later, when he was a teenager, Andrew wanted to help his father get back into the hobby so, he joined a local club dedicated to revitalizing the art of beekeeping.
Today, Andrew’s father continues to maintain the hives Andrew helped him regain, and Andrew is continuing the family tradition with the apiary he shares with Blythe. Their three hives are home to an estimated 350,000 bees and have produced a combined 12 gallons of honey so far this year.
Like his father and grandfather, Andrew appreciates the gifts from the hives.
“Andrew is so creative and so artsy,” said Blythe, who pilots 737s for Southern Air. “He does a lot more with the bees than just get honey. He makes lotions and uses the wax. He uses everything the bees give.”
In return, Andrew works to give something back to the bees. For the last several years, the honeybee population has been in decline as the result of factors ranging from the use of pesticides and other chemicals to diseases and the effects of radiation from cellular phone towers. Andrew has bred queen bees in an effort to establish disease-resistance bees. And, as a mentor for the Northern Kentucky Beekeeper’s Association, he encourages others to keep bees in hopes of building back their numbers.
“I want to see the bees succeed,” he said. “Without the bees, we wouldn’t have much of anything on this earth. It would look totally different. Two thirds of the produce in the grocery store would be gone. Everything is against the bees now.”
Andrew continued, “But this is a good year for them, and hopefully they are seeing a resurgence and figuring out how to survive in this world.”