Meet the Makers: Liam Becker & John Berdux of Apis Mercantile
by Chris Dugas
Liam Becker and John Berdux have been running their local honey operation, Apis Mercantile, on John’s Island since 2017. A few years prior, Becker and Berdux were college roommates living in one of downtown Charleston’s clapboard rowhomes where, out of curiosity and the desire to learn more about bees, Berdux placed two hives in their backyard. Intrigued by bees, the pair learned everything they could from these environmental superheroes and started selling the honey to friends, family, and a few local businesses. Although they took time away from the bees post-grad, their passion never died, and Berdux and Becker eventually reunited to dive head-first into honey with one goal in mind: Emphasize the importance of sustainable and ethical sourcing practices while making local honey more accessible.
To do this, they partner with a wide variety of local apiaries across the Southeast to ensure that they have a dependable supply that maintains the same level of high-quality honey in every jar they fill.
Wadmalaw Island’s Deep Water Vineyardone is one of their partner apiaries—managed by Mitchell Simpson, the apiary has plenty of active hives, from which Simpson creates meads in their on-site meadery. At the hives, the buzzing sound is intense as multiple bees dart out of the box in what Berdux describes as their flight path for the day. Those are scout bees and their main job is to seek out areas with a bounty of nectar that needs to be collected and communicate that to the rest of the hive through an intricate dance.
From there, the nectar is foraged, returned to the hive, and placed in the honeycomb structures built by other worker bees. Once the cell structures are filled, the bees flap their wings over the open cells, physically dehydrating them to reverse the moisture ratio from 20 percent sugar and 80 percent water to 80 percent sugar and 20 percent water, which stops any fermentation from happening. When complete, the cell is capped, preserving the honey.
Once all cells are capped, the honey is ready for harvest. The beekeeper removes the supers, or bee boxes, from the hives and extracts the bees using a harmless smoke. The caps are taken from the cells and placed in a centrifuge that spins quickly to force the honey out of the frames. The honey then drips down into a collection reservoir, is transferred into 55-gallon drums, and delivered to the Apis Warehouse on John’s Island for bottling. The Apis team gently heats the honey to produce a less viscous consistency, pumps the honey through their bottling system, and each jar of Apis Mercantile honey is filled, labeled, and capped by hand, ready to be enjoyed.
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