Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper

Have you all noticed that my kids have been out of school for 3 weeks now and that I've stopped complaining? Well, we've been busy with all sorts of activities and trips for the kids. We've been so busy that the kids haven't had a moment to be bored.  Earlier this week I took the kids, with some friends, to an Apiary a town over from me. (An apiary is a bee farm.)

Marina Marchese is known as The Accidental Bee Keeper. In fact, she wrote about about how she stumbled into this career. An artist by trade, Marina went to visit an Apiary and fell instantly in love with the little yellow and black creatures. She has since written and published a book all about her career change and passion for honeybees. The book is filled with all sorts of fun and informative facts about the bees and the honey they produce. Honey has wonderful qualities that date back to ancient times. She shared much of this information with us as we toured her "farm." 

We learned that honeybees are vegetarians and do not like meat. The annoying, flying creatures you see at picnics are most likely hornets or wasps. Honeybees won't sting unless provoked they are gentle creatures who want solely to make honey. Should you get stung, however, gently remove the stinger and walk away, slowly, from the site where you were stung. If you can wash your hands to remove the smell of the pheromone. Pheromone is the hormone that bees excrete when they sting. Other bees will smell the hormone, and may sting as well to protect their hives.

Here honey bees are hard at work. Honeybees are most active in the Spring and Summertime. During the coldest months of the year they all huddle together and the activity caused by the buzzing of their wings can keep the hives as warm as 95 degrees!  They often leave the cluster on warmer days to EAT honey that they have stored inside their hive.

Honeybees love herbs, especially when the herbs are not harvested and left to flower. In the above picture the little bee is gathering nectar from flowering cilantro. Marina explained that she has not removed the clover and dandelion from her yards. Bees love these and these make for wonderful honey. Honey bees are revered in Europe and highly respected in Japan.

Our honeybees are European honeybees, and in fact our honey bees most likely came over on the Mayflower! Hey, wait... they're bees, not WASPS! (Ok, that was bad!)

Honey that comes from the honeycomb is the purest honey and tastes very different from honey found in jars. Honey, like wine, comes in many flavors, colors and varietals and is quite complex. Much of the flavor derives from the plants that the honeybees feed upon. Honey is the only food that does not have to be pasteurized as honeybees are that clean. Filled with natural bacteria honey has been known to aid the healing of wounds and cure many stomach ailments, sooth sore throats and coughs. Just be careful not to feed honey to a child less than a year due to possible botulism.

Above the author and beekeeper shows us how she collects the honey and honeycomb from the hives. In her hand she holds a smoker, containing herbs, to "smoke out" the bees to prevent them from attacking her.

Honey is a wonderful ingredient to use in cooking in lieu of sugar. It is much kinder to our body and our bodies process it and metabolize it differently than sugar. Marina has some wonderful recipes in her book. I wanted to make her biscotti on Thursday, but then the storm came and we lost power... Gee, I wonder if her bee hives were damaged... I hope not!

Beeswax is also used for many other wonderful items, including candles. Below, my children all have the opportunity to roll their own. (They now sit proudly in silver holders on my mantel!)

I learned that the Queen Bee is elected by her "peers" and that she is beautiful and shapely. She lays up to 2000 eggs a day! (I've had three children. More than enough for me!) Each hive also has a drone bee and worker bees. All bees are distinguishable visually... well, to a trained eye they are. If a queen bee dies or becomes ill, a new queen is elected to boss the other ones around. (My layman terms, of course!)

After our informative field trip was over we headed over to a friend's house for some lunch and more fun.

Our children are happy to be busy little bees this summer!

Marina's book is charming and wonderful! I could have gone on and on and on about the honey bee, but needed to stop myself! If you want more information just order her book here. Her honey is fabulous and she ships all over the country. For more information on Red Bee and Red Bee products visit her website!

If you have access to a local Apiary I highly suggest you plan a visit!