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Bee City has been undergoing positive changes

 (L to R) Bridgette, Scott, Archie, and Diane Biering.

(L to R) Bridgette, Scott, Archie, and Diane Biering.

What the rather humble dream of creating a shrine to the art of beekeeping, which eventually became the massive complex of educational exhibits that Bee City, located at 1066 Holly Ridge Lane off Highway 61 near Cottageville, has become today is rather awe-inspiring.

Bee City started as an idea by Archie Biering. “Dad built a small city out of actual beehives. It wasn’t intended for public viewing, but his idea eventually grew into an educational facility, of sorts, about the habits of bees, in the early 90’s,” said Scott Biering, who bought Bee City from his father in 2011.

Scott grew up around honeybees, but later went to work with the United Parcel Service (UPS), making local deliveries in the Walterboro area. However, as time progressed, he found he really missed both Bee City and being near his parents, so he returned to the complex.

A snapping turtle native to our county comes up for air.  Photos by Rick Tobin

A snapping turtle native to our county comes up for air. Photos by Rick Tobin

Archie Biering and his wife, Diane, have operated Bee City with the help of Scott and his wife, Bridgett, since the complex opened to the public over 20 years ago. Bee City now features a restaurant to which people travel from miles away just to eat the fried catfish and other assortments of good food, a reptile house, all kinds of live animal exhibits, and a children’s garden, complete with a water slide for racing rubber ducks.

“My mom and dad still come over to help out; after all, this is their baby,” said Scott. He added his father was the one responsible for the completion of the children’s garden. “The garden has well pumps that enable children to water plants in the garden. The hand-crank pumps also power a two-lane rubber duck race track, which the kids love.”

Two wallabies brave the rainfall. Photos by Rick Tobin

Two wallabies brave the rainfall. Photos by Rick Tobin

An outdoor petting zoo (some of which you can, and some you can’t, pet) has been added to the complex since its inception. Exotic animals such as two types of capuchin monkeys (white face and black tuft), a pair of vervet monkeys, three brown lemurs, 14 ringtail lemurs, wallabies, African serval cats, coatimundis, alpacas, llamas, miniature pigs, miniature horses, partridge cochin chickens, and many other animals reside at Bee City. “This is a different kind of zoo,” Scott said. “Here, you get to hand-feed some of these animals. One seven-year-old girl was just not communicating with her family. She hand- fed the lemurs, and started communicating with her family. The power of touch is the difference. You can touch these animals, and there is a lot of power in that.”

The indoor reptile house is also impressive. “Our Nature Center and Reptile House houses every reptile that is native to South Carolina as well as those that are from other areas,” Scott said. He noted the idea of the reptile house was actually born out of earlier reptile education efforts by his father. “Dad would let fellow beekeepers know which types of snakes to watch out for in the line of their business, and the idea just grew from there.” The nature center also houses turtles, alligators, fish, and toads.

Scott noted that Dennis Blejski, is somewhat of an expert when it comes to reptiles and other species housed at the facility. “Dennis knows a lot about reptiles, and talks with the people who come in about the different species. That is his passion, and he knows a lot about them. I’m impressed with both Dennis and with the new facility.”

As Dennis held a huge toad in his hand to show some guests, Scott noted that this species, called the cane toad, is native to Florida, and can grow up to eight pounds in weight. “These toads are invading Florida neighborhoods, and thrive on dog food and cat food. They can kill both dogs and cats by releasing poison through their skins.” He added that, as with other species common to the State of Florida, he wouldn’t be surprised to see them eventually turning up in our county.

“We want Bee City to be a major center for Colleton County. We’re involved in agri-tourism, and not many businesses in Colleton County do this. We have a lot of school tours, senior citizens groups, church groups, summer camps, and other organizational tours here regularly,” Scott said. “One of the tours that means a lot to me is when we get the Camp Happy Days Tour here, which is coming up soon. This involves youths who have cancer. We have 40 children coming this year, and they will be touring the facility and doing other fun things, such as making figures out of bee’s wax and they get honey to take home with them. This is a very humbling thing that we get to do.”

Bee City has a new online website at beecity.net. The site has video displays about different facets of the facility, and will soon have a shopping cart attached so people can purchase honey, honeybee related skin care products, and other related items.