Out of sight on the 15th-floor balcony of the Bacardi headquarters in Coral Gables lives a modest bee colony. Its keeper is Nick Bofill, founder and CEO of the Native Guy. Bofill visits his beehives here at least twice a month, in addition to tending to his 35 other hives in his farm spaces in the Redland and LaBelle, northeast of Fort Myers.
“I usually like to bee-keep early in the morning,” Bofill says as he stands next to his two hives on the Bacardi balcony on a Saturday afternoon. Bees buzz all around him. This particular day, he isn't collecting honeycomb but rather checking in on his "girls." He approaches a small swarm trap on the balcony’s edge. “Excuse me, ladies,” he whispers as he slowly bends to lift the top of the box. Just as carefully, he sets the top down.
The biggest misconception about bees is they’re out to sting you. That’s simply not true, Bofill says. Bees are naturally peaceful creatures with a tendency to keep to themselves. They’ll sting only if truly provoked.
Bofill remains perfectly calm by his hive on the balcony. The bees fly in and out of the wooden crate almost as if they’re dancing. They somersault around the box and shimmy their way up and down the sides. The bees look like a bunch of carefree schoolchildren at play.
“What’ll get you stung is your reaction,” Bofill says. “Bees are more likely to go up to women because of their sweet-smelling perfume, but really the bee is just checking to see if you’re a flower.”
Bofill grew up around nature while working with his father and grandfather in the family landscaping business. But what really set the young entrepreneur in motion to start his own bee business was when headed the installation of all the trees and plants at the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in 2017.
“I did everything from the mangroves on the fourth floor [of the museum] to the palms and oaks that are outside,” Bofill says. “Doing that project, along with a crew of ten, showed me how beautiful and in-depth these native flowers are.” But it was seeing the excitement of young museum visitors that made him understand the importance of beekeeping. “After that, I knew I needed to bee-keep.”
He started the Native Guy out of his kitchen nearly four years ago. Now Bofill boasts an impressive warehouse space tucked off Bird Road behind Lincoln’s Beard Brewing and between auto parts shops.
In addition to overseeing his online store and attending various events around town, the Miami native has been managing two hives for Bacardi for more than a year. He also manages all of the bee removals at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and earlier this year, he did all of the landscaping for the theater production The Amparo Experience at the former Villa 221 space.
Gastronomes will recognize the Native Guy from cocktail menus around town. He supplies honey to Cafe la Trova, Lost Boy, Stubborn Seed, Local Pie, the Jim and Neesie, Lido Deck at the Standard, 1 Hotel South Beach, House of Per'la, Scapegoat, Ariete, Taurus, Nave, Better Days, Baby Jane, and Dasher & Crank. He has also signed on to work with the Cocktail Cartel’s two new restaurant spaces: Spanglish and Grails.
At the end of September, Bofill partnered with Barr Hill Gin to become the exclusive honey provider for participating South Florida restaurants during the spirit’s Bee’s Knees week. Similar to the Negroni week concept, Bee’s Knees strives to raise funds and awareness for bee conservation.
Up next for Bofill is a pilot project with the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) that will tap into the unused greenery around the roadways. “The highway system has natural areas that have Gaillardia pulchella flowers,” Bofill says. “These flowers bring in all the native wildlife to the area, and MDX has really worked on conserving them. We pitched them about possibly throwing hives along the highway system, and they loved the idea. It’s only going to promote and strengthen our natural areas.”
Although the 30-year-old beekeeper has forged many local partnerships, for Bofill, it’s all about educating the community. “Anyone can bee-keep,” he says.
If keeping thousands of bees in a box in your backyard is not your thing, you can still contribute to bees’ well-being. Planting more flowers, for instance, will attract bees and give them something to pollinate. Leaving a bowl of water by your outdoor plants is also helpful for nearby bees to hydrate.
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“If I get people to start doing a little bit around town," Bofill says, "we’re just going to add more color and food for bees.”
Bofill has big plans for 2020, which include possibly opening a Native Guy storefront. The brick-and-mortar would offer everything sold on his website — honey, soaps, scrubs, candles, bath bombs, beeswax — and also act as an educational playground.
“My goal is to spread awareness of the bee,” he says. “The idea for the store is that it would be a place where we can sit down and have an educational outreach to the community. The hive is the most powerful box in the world, and we want to show what that box can do.”
Purchase honey and other handmade items at thenativeguy.com or local retailers around town.