Hive Five, An Interview with Craig Opfer—Put A Bird In It Featured Maker

Craig Opfer was the son of an ad man who was the son of an ad man. He grew-up falling in love with ads, and they really became a part of how he saw himself. He got his start with big agencies in Chicago, and moved to Portland to work with what has now become North — that was twenty years ago.

Now, he’s owner/creative director of local award-winning agency Magneto Brand Advertisingand he is really into bees.

LND How did you get into bee keeping?

CO  I have a friend in Ashland. Last year, we were at his house and he’s got this great deck that overlooks the valley down in Ashland; it’s really beautiful. I’m sitting on the porch just kind of admiring the sun coming up over the valley and all of a sudden I notice that there’s a lot of bees — I’m thinking he’s got bee problems — so, I peek around the corner and he’s got two big beehives and there’s all these bees coming and going. I made some coffee and watched them for about 45 minutes. I was intrigued, and he said “It’s pretty easy if you want to get into it.” 

LND How do you go from seeing a friend’s bees to buying your own?

CO It kind of just percolated, right?! I sat there, and I thought, Man, bees. Where would I put them? and how would I handle it? They aren’t a lot of work. You can be a very active bee keeper, or you can just let them do they’re thing — I’m kind of in between. Of course, my bees have honeycomb everywhere and it’s a mess, but they’re happy! They are very happy bees.

LND Do you take the honey and all that?

CO I have a young hive, and they say that the first year, you should let the bees be, so. This year, we’re letting them get established. Next year, we’ll get the honey if they last through the winter.

LND Last through the winter?

CO Yeah. Around 30% of all noncommercial bees are lost to mites. I think that’s right. [ It is. ]You know, colony collapse is a serious thing. And, you sometimes have to worry about robber bees and viral infections like bee influenza. It’s pretty crazy stuff, but our Carniolan bees are really resilient. 

LND So, let’s talk about your process!

CO I’m making a house, but do you know what kind of a house? 

LND No. What?

CO I’m making a bee house! 

LND No!

CO Yes! 

LND Tell me about your house!

CO It’s a Langstroth hive modeled after the Ambassador Hotel… Yvonne suggested “What if you make a bee house?” and I thought, yeah, I can make a bee house. In fact, I’m going to make a bee hotel! I may put a pool up on top; I’m not sure. But, it will be a working hive, so, I’ll put information in there for them to go get bees and talk with the bee people. They’ll have plenty of time to get ready. It’s perfect, really, because you can’t get bees in October, so they’ll be able to order bees in May. 

LND Is there a kind of zoning someone would need? 

CO No. But it’s always good to let your neighbors know. 

LND What’s the best part of owning bees?

CO I think my garden is better. The bees cross-pollinate . They’ll go across the river — they can travel up to five miles. I could have my bees here [at work], and I’d never know! It’s a lot like we run our business, here. We do a lot of foot work to come up with one good line. I guess the bee house makes sense — it all comes back around.