In the Bees

If Jeff Spangler isn’t advising banking clients, he’s most likely out checking his hives

Published in 2018 Ohio Super Lawyers — January 2018

Weekdays, Jeff Spangler advises bankers on recovering debts and making loans. Weekends, he’s often intent on keeping his beehives happy and healthy. The co-managing partner at Dagger Law of Lancaster, Ohio, has been focusing on creditor rights for 12 years; wrangling bees on his 21 acres outside town since 2014, when a friend was moving away and needed to rehome his colonies. 

“I thought [beekeeping] was a fascinating science,” he says. “They essentially impact every piece of the food that we eat. So without them, we’re in trouble, right? That was the initial drive to say, ‘OK, let’s learn a little bit more here.’

“One thing led to another, and the next thing you know I have the beehives,” he says. “We moved all his hives out to my property.”

When he’s “in the bees,” Spangler usually wears a protective suit—though sometimes he takes his chances and wears just gloves. To calm the creatures, he uses a hand-held smoker—a method employed for millennia—to make the process safer for both himself and the bees. Last year, he harvested about 15 gallons of honey, which his family enjoyed and shared as gifts. 

A visit to the hives can range from brief maintenance to extraction, which takes a weekend. Spangler says maintenance can include treating for mites, wrapping hives against wind and cold weather, making sure colonies have enough honey to survive, checking that the queen is laying her eggs, or giving “a push in the right direction,” he says. “It could be giving them food; it could be tricking them into laying different types of eggs.”

Spangler and his wife, Allison, have two young children. “What is neat to me is that my 7-year-old son is accustomed to the bees and is beginning to understand the process behind honey production,” he says. “It is common for him to suit up with me and get in the hives to check the bees. Contrast that with other kids, who run inside at the sight of a honey bee—which was me as a 7-year-old!”        

The learning curve has included challenges and losses. Last year, Spangler had a hive swarm: pick up and take off for another home. 

“I thought that there was a [mite] infestation, but there was no evidence of that,” he says. “They were just gone. That occurred in early spring. … There are people way more talented than me that can go extract bees from a swarm and coerce the queen to come along, but I’m not nearly talented enough to do that.”

Spangler replaced the hive. He has also faced infestations, and once had a hive that lost a queen. He consulted with a longtime beekeeper to solve that one. “We basically robbed another hive of what appeared to be a queen larva and we put it in that hive, and they adopted it as their own. And that, to this day, is the strongest hive that I have.” 

The factors that play into the fate of a hive are complex. “Weather can help or hurt,” Spangler notes. Biology also counts. “Some bees get stronger than others. Some hives are stronger than the one next door.”

Of course, the day job is also challenging. “Of all the areas of banking, regulatory is the most complex and the most ever-changing,” Spangler says. “It’s a constant watch for what will happen next and what is being talked about.” That means scouring mainstream news as well as trade journals and legal updates.

Still, keeping up with the regulations is one of his favorite parts of the job: “It gives me an opportunity to guide lenders to places that maybe they haven’t thought about.”

When a visitor tries to draw a comparison between banking law and beekeeping, however, Spangler begs to differ. “Banking is people, and the people make certain organizations better. I can’t draw an analogy,” he says. “The last thing I want to think about when I’m in the bees is my bank life.” 

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