Deep in the heart of Texas rules a czar. Walter Schumacher is a loving and likable character whose mission to save the world centers on his love of the honeybee. Preservation is the name of the game for Schumacher, Discovery’s latest new reality series star who you have to see to believe in the new Bee Czar, beginning tomorrow.
The single dad is all about keeping honeybees from extinction and using the by-products to fuel his business decimated during COVID-19.
Now in a non-profit and business rebuild with his family and extended kin, Walter spoke to Monsters & Critics today about this sweet as honey series that will educate and enlighten people to the importance of our busy bee friends and how we humans can be better stewards to their survival which directly impacts our own.
Walter is unafraid of his bee buddies, works without a suit, and shows people how to handle bees without getting stung.
His three sons, Will, Bodhi, and Odin, are all distinctly different in their personalities and part of their dad’s bee empire strategy.
Now, Discovery’s intimate look at his business shows just how determined Schumacher is to make you a bee-liever too. Walter’s oldest son Will runs the business with Walter, and his wife, Meredith, takes care of inventory and sales.
The series shows Walter and his bee-wrangling team at the American Honey Bee Protection Agency rescuing bee hives from places like interior or exterior walls of a house or 30 feet up in a tree. They relocate the hives in a safe space to pollinate in peace. You will meet Jonathan, a military veteran now bee technician, new hire Ramon, plus Sandy Dixon, who we found out is also related to Walter.
In the premiere, Walter shares that “a honeybee pollinated every third bite of food we eat; without bees, life as we know it would cease to exist.”
Exclusive interview with ‘Bee Czar’ Walter Schumacher
Monsters & Critics: We appreciate the work you’re doing, and it is a lot of work! One of the funny things caught early on was your mom saying you were normal until age three. What happened at age three that made her start to wonder?
Walter Schumacher: Yes. It is a lot of work. I have no idea. I’m not quite sure that I remember being three.
M&C: When did you first realize you wanted to have more of an unconventional career?
Walter Schumacher: Oh, well, I don’t know if realize is the correct description. I’m pretty sure that I was forced into growing up.
When I was a kid at age nine, we moved from Illinois to South Texas. And that was probably when I knew that things were quite different.
My mom’s side of the family is from Texas, and my dad’s family is from the Chicago area. So that’s why we lived in Illinois, and then we eventually moved to the warmer climate of Texas because it’s quite cold in Chicago.
I had a restaurant in 2005, and one of the bands that played at the restaurant, the lead singer’s boyfriend [David], came to me and said, ‘Hey, I wanna save the world.’ And I said, ‘okay, cool. How are you going to do that?’ And he said, ‘well, I’m going to rescue wild honeybees.’
And I’d never really thought about honeybees at that point other than from a chef’s perspective or as a culinary thing, anyway. So time went on, and we put together all the pieces of paper because, with bees, you have to get insurance over the possibility of getting stung or hurt. And right about the time, we decided to put a shingle up, an event happened.
At that time, a guy was stung after running his tractor into a tree with a beehive in it. And he stood and fought the bees, and of course, he didn’t win.
So the media started and immediately were looking for answers. How could this have not have happened? How could this have been prevented? And almost everybody in the world was saying at that time, you kill them [the bees].
David and I had just decided to hang our new business shingle out and said, “Don’t kill them. We’ll move them to a safe place.”
So when they contacted me for interviews, it was very TV worthy for Austin, I was kind of weird, and I still am kind of weird.
So, we were on TV, and immediately our business went from nothing to hundreds of people wanting us to help them, and to the guy who said he wanted to save the world? Well, then he had to quit because it was too much work.
So I picked up a book. I didn’t know anything about it [bee wrangling]. So I drove to Paris, Texas, six miles away, loaded my truck up with the equipment and a book about honeybees. The reason I did that was that I’d given my word to hundreds of people that I would help them. And so that’s how I became a bee rescue guy.
M&C: And in the meantime, you’ve got three kids.
Walter Schumacher: Right, but I didn’t have three kids when I first started. I had one kid.
M&C: That’s Will. He seems like the antithesis of you. Will presents as a real buttoned-down fellow with a cowboy hat, and he looks conservative to me. Am I wrong?
Walter Schumacher: Right. Yes. He rebelled to the right side.
M&C: And your little one Odin is your mini-me. And you’ve got one in the middle who’s in the throes of puberty?
Walter Schumacher: Yes. Bodhi’s pretty cerebral, though. He’s really deep. He likes to play tricks on people. Those two boys, their mama, is Korean. And so you would think there’s no way that they would have red hair and blue eyes. Right?
Because they’re half Asian, but then we figured that about 2,500 years ago on the Silk Road, the Mongols and Huns met and made Vikings, so we just figured we did the same thing all over again, 2,500 years later.
M&C: How Will is in comparison to you? He seems so cautious and much more conservative in his personality? Tell me about your team.
Walter Schumacher: Right? Now he grew up watching me. So I guess he was smart enough to make the changes. Meredith is Will’s wife and had no idea she would become the head of shipping and organizing the honey sales, but she’s down.
When Will graduated college, we went to Amsterdam. He was going to check out a school where he might get a master’s or a doctorate in Amsterdam.
Funny story. Will took me over there, and we hung out there, and he was offered a job at a Christian hostel. We were very intoxicated and in the middle of Amsterdam, and there was a Christian hostel.
I was like, “Wow, we should go in there and talk to these people.” because they were located in a very rough neighborhood. You know what I’m saying? So we walked in there, and the guy was like, “I’m sorry, sir, you’re drunk. And you can’t be in here.”
Now, Will graduated with a theology major. And he said, “Well, the Bible says this.” And then they started having a conversation, and then that Christian hostel hired him! And he lived there for the next year, almost a half. So that was pretty cool stuff.
M&C: That is cool. But yet he came back to Texas and worked with you and now works with you?
Walter Schumacher: Right? Exactly. Yes. So, we’re at a point right now where I can’t do it all by myself, and as they say, it takes a village.
And Sandy Dixon, my cousin Travis and Sandy’s daughter Ashley had a baby, who I suppose is my second cousin. Dewey is that little kid’s name.
We met Sandy later in life as she came to work with us and the bees, but we didn’t know at that time that she was Ashley’s mom. And she didn’t know that I was Travis’s cousin. And so then later it’s like, whoa! It’s almost like your family.
So that’s one of those weird meant-to-be moments. I get to play with the word “Bee” a lot. When something happens that you think you’re in the right place at the right time, I like to say it’s a “meant to be” moment.
M&C: There was a lot of hype about the giant Murder Hornet killing the honeybees and decimating the hives. Is that something on your radar in Texas, or do you think that’s a lot of hype?
Walter Schumacher: Well, wasps are notorious breeders, so, and they haven’t crossed the desert to live here. They may, I don’t know much about them. But they look huge. You could probably hit them with a baseball bat.
M&C: They rip off the heads of honeybees and decimate the hives pretty quickly. They’ve made it to Washington state and parts of Oregon.
Walter Schumacher: Yes. If you take bananas and vinegar and put it in a bucket, it’ll attract wasps if they’re attacking your hives. A lot of wasps don’t work, basically. They take, so that’s prevalent.
When you witness and deal with different wasps, some work like the Mexican honey wasp. They create this funky honey, but they do a lot of pollination. So they’re cool, tiny, but they sting a lot, though. It hurts.
M&C: Before the Murder Hornet, we were all hyped up about the “killer” bees. How do you know that a hive will not attack to kill?
Walter Schumacher: Well, you see, from my understanding, the only way to tell the difference between the Mellifera bee is through some form of genetic testing. I can’t do that.
But I have an entomologist friend that said, imagine if a German Shepherd was dropped off in Brazil in 1930. And by the time it got to Texas 40 years later, its puppies beget puppies, and so on down the line would eventually be a very mean Chihuahua.
So, that’s technical, in my view, what African or killer bees have come to at this point. They’re just meaner, but they all also don’t need us to survive.
Eastern honeybees need beekeepers to survive, and wild, feral, or Africanized bees don’t need beekeepers. Unless somebody’s going to spray poison on them, then they need the beekeeper to come cut them out and move them. And that’s where I come in.
I don’t do any extermination. So I’ve cut bees out of a lot of crazy places. There’s been a couple of places where it was impossible to get them. You can’t remove their hives, but you can trap them out of the hive with the one-way valve.
So even in the worst situation like a pipe, we had a metal pipe that was six inches around and 12 feet long, and the bees were in the whole tube, and there was no way to get them out, except by the one-way valve method.
M&C: Talk about the level of commitment someone has to have to have a bee box on their property. What do they need to know and need to do for these bees?
Walter Schumacher: Keeping bees is primarily visual, right? Because you don’t want to keep opening the roof of their house to say, “Hey, how are you all doing?” If your landlord kept coming over and opening the door and walking in and saying, “Hey,” would you eventually move?
And with bees, the biggest thing is observation. You have to observe that they’re flying. You have to watch that they’re bringing pollen back to the hive. You have to watch that they’re weak or strong, and then you can take action. So it is time and knowledge, but it takes time to get there.
They [novice beekeepers] have to know to feed them. They have to know these are things you can do outside the hive. So in times of drought, the term is called dearth in the beekeeping community. So during the summer, when there’s no rain, and there’s no nectar there, and there’s no food for them, you should supplement them so that they can survive. But it’s primarily observation [of the hive] that’s the most important thing.
Bee Czar premieres Wednesday, Mar. 9 at 10 pm EST on Discovery.