Hooray for spring! Didn’t this past winter seem to last forever? I don’t know about you, but in our house, the cold and the snow, and the virus-after-virus-after-virus all seemed like it would never end. Every time our toddler picked up yet another cold to generously share with us all, we would top off the jar of homemade honey-ginger-lemon syrup, and get ready to start the healing process. When we are feeling under the weather, drinking a warm tea with honey produced by our own backyard bees feels like one of the most healing, healthful natural remedies we can provide for ourselves.
honey citrus syrups (photo credit: Laura Jane Brubaker)
Did you know that bees can travel up to 5 or even 6 miles from their hive in search of nectar? This means that today, our bees could equally be visiting witch hazel in Fenway gardens, forsythia in Forest Hills Cemetery, or the blooms in front of your apartment. In our urban environment, we all share a backyard – especially from a bee’s perspective. The parks, gardens and other green spaces that brighten our streets and connect our neighborhoods create a collective urban feast for Boston’s honeybee residents.
Our family has a small apiary in Jamaica Plain, MA, where we harvest honey; collect and make things out of beeswax; and observe, learn and teach about bees and bee behavior. This summer, we will be the caretakers of six hives — some in our backyard, and a few additional hives on other people’s property in Jamaica Plain.
Right now, the bees are just waking up from their winter slumber. In the winter, bees huddle together to keep warm, and only venture out of the hive out to stretch their wings on the rare warm day. There is no nectar for them to collect in the winter, so they rely on the honey and pollen that they collected and stored during the summer months. The life of the beekeeper in the winter is indoors as well – in the kitchen melting down wax, making candles and other beeswax products, and honey infused culinary delights. Now that the weather has turned, however, we are all heading outside more frequently. The bees have nectar and pollen to collect, and we have to check on them – making sure that they have the space they need, and that they’re healthy and happy. This summer, each hive should produce about 50 pounds of harvestable honey (although if it’s a sunny and bloom filled summer, like last year, they can produce much more – up to 250 pounds!). We will harvest this honey at the end of the summer, making sure to leave enough in the hive for the bees to survive on over the winter. Wax is harvested with the honey, when we crush the honey comb and strain the honey out.
A frame of honey
Using the products of our hives, we run The Benevolent Bee, selling small-batch, handcrafted creations. We combine our own beeswax with herb infused oils that we craft ourselves, and make balms and salves that soothe, nourish and heal; we infuse the honey itself, and create delicious and healthful nectars; and we make a wide variety of 100% beeswax candles.
St. John’s Wort Salve
And, since our bees could be collecting their nectar and pollen from throughout the Boston area — including from the flowering plants in your yard – our honey is some of the most local honey you can find. Stop by our table at Herbstalk for a free copy of our recipe for a healing honey-ginger-lemon syrup (so delicious, even when you’re not sick!) and pick up some bee products from your backyard benevolent bees!
Bee well and happy spring,
~Stephanie, Emile and Clara Bruneau