02 | 2021
© Katrin Binner

Hans-Werner Bernhart

OCCUPATION ⇨ Subcontractor-Purchaser for tunnel projects at HOCHTIEF Infrastructure in Frankfurt am Main

MISSION ⇨ Expanding his own horizon

Hans-Werner Bernhart is an individual who swings into action when he encounters an obstacle. And that’s how he became a beekeeper. When he planted a fairly large apple and cherry orchard on a piece of land about 30 years ago, he believed he needed bees to pollinate his fruit trees. And because there was no longer a beekeeper in his village, he decided without further ado to become a beekeeper himself. It was not an easy task, but it fascinated him. Bernhart, who has a degree in industrial management, asked a beekeeper from a neighboring village to show him a few things, and he learned the rest on his own. It took him between two and three years to fully understand how to feed his bees before winter sets in, harvest honey, propagate colonies, and monitor swarming. Today everything’s going so well that he can usually dispense with protective equipment such as a veil and gloves. “The bees sting only if I make mistakes, and they only sting me on the hands,” he says. One gets used to it, he adds. 

Over the years he has established as many as 30 bee colonies at various locations. He used to produce forest honey in the Hunsrück region, but he gave it up because it wasn’t profitable. In his home region of Rheinhessen, where his orchard is located, he produces rapeseed honey; in the Taunus mountains he produces sweet chestnut honey. He always tries to cover his costs while maintaining the highest possible quality. His equipment wasn’t cheap, and wherever money flows in it should also flow outwhen it comes to finances, he’s a hard-headed businessman. Besides, the revenue from his productshoney, mead, and beeswaxhas financed a number of family trips. That has retroactively sweetened the long, cold hours he has spent at the fall and Christmas markets. At first glance, beekeeping may look like a whole different world from the construction industry, where Bernhart has worked for over 30 years25 of them at HOCHTIEF as a purchaser for tunnel projects. But there are some similarities too. “Both of these areas are complex and unpredictable. New surprises pop up again and again, and the problems rarely repeat themselves,” he says. “In order to solve the problems, you need experience and flexibility.” And over and over again, you need to be willing to break new ground and learn from your mistakes.