Matt Reed is driving through Portland, Ore., with 20,000 bees in the back of his truck. This morning, someone tipped him off to a swarm of wild bees and he set off to catch them. He does this a lot this time of year, when wild swarms start to come out in the spring. Tomorrow morning he’ll move them to one of the hives he keeps in a local community garden.

Reed’s hives aren’t the usual stacks of white, blocky drawers, however. He builds “top bar” hives. Pared down, locally sourced-and-built, and often standing on stilts, they’re designed to mimic how bees build hives naturally. They’re in line with Portland’s trademark artisanal-everything lifestyle, but — or maybe because of that — beekeepers from New York to Nebraska want them.

Reed, a self-proclaimed bee dork, and his wife, Jill, got in to beekeeping and hive building randomly. In 2008, Jill spotted a sick bee on their kitchen windowsill. Matt, who says he’s the kind of person who always saves unloveable animals, set out a plate of honey to try to nurse the bee back to health. The bee ate the honey, got stronger, and flew off.