Olivarez Honey Bees is a family-owned business with three generations of beekeeping expertise. We've raised bees in Northern California for more than 50 years.
Ray grew up in this beekeeping family, but an allergy to bees kept him out of the hives as a child, since even one sting could cause a dangerous reaction. Still, he built boxes, wired frames, built package bee cages, and filled feed cans when the bees were not flying.
After high school he set off for college. But after a devastating flood decimated his family’s apiary business in the spring of 1983, he decided to leave college and come home to Tammy, his grade school sweetheart. In 1985, he started Olivarez Honey Bees with one truck and the mentorship of an old-time beekeeper named Jack Shaw. Fortunately, he had grown out of his bee allergy by then.
Ray worked as a land surveyor during the week and a beekeeper at night and weekends. He and Tammy had three kids in three years. He didn't get a lot of sleep back then, but his passion for beekeeping grew, along with the number of colonies he kept. Eventually, he had to decide between one job or the other, and he chose beekeeping.
Ray met an almond grower named Dan Cummings and began a partnership that would span nearly 10 years. During that time, with the help of Dan’s vast business experience and Ray’s and Tammy’s relentless work ethic, Olivarez Honey Bees became involved in all aspects of the bee industry, including pollination services, queen and package bee production, and, of course, honey production.
OHB took the daring step of buying a small beekeeping business on Hawaii's Big Island. Revitalizing, improving, and expanding Big Island Queens allowed OHB to offer top-quality, fresh queens to their customers year-round.
In 2014, Dan left the business, and recently Tammy and Ray brought their three kids on board to help them continue to improve the company and to one day take over as the next generation of Olivarez Honey Bees.
Ray credits his “core” knowledge of bees to the time he spent working bees during some very lean years for beekeepers back in the 1990s, when he faced the onset of tracheal mites and Varroa mites, and a very steep learning curve. Today, he feels that keeping healthy bees and producing a top-notch product go hand in hand with beekeepers working together and sharing as much knowledge with one another as possible. Ray feels that OHB's core customers are some of the best “researchers” out there, an incredible source of information, and he relies on their input to bring his thoughts back to center.
It truly is all about the bees at Olivarez Honey Bees, and Ray feels blessed to have created a culture of bee lovers at OHB, and has surrounded his bees with some of the best people you can imagine.