Photos by Jolene Hanson
Marisa Papetti, owner of Marie’s Bees, sat down with The Northern Light to talk about what it is like to work with honey bees, her business and honey tasting.
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What do you do at Marie’s Bees?
A: At Marie’s Bees, we educate people about how bees enhance our environment. We do this through hive rentals, personalized classes, honey tastings and sales of our raw, local honey.
Q: What experience do you have working with honey bees?
A: I have been working with honey bees now for about four years. It all started out with one hive. You’ll hear from any beekeepers that that’s how it starts – a hobby gone wild.
Q: What compels you to work with honeybees?
A: So many factors come into play with the loss of the honeybees. Disease, pesticide use, loss of available forage and weather just a few of the things that affect the honeybee’s daily life.
Thankfully, through education and awareness, people have been able to focus on how to make life better for the bees.
For the first time, we are posing the question: What can I do for the bees?
Q: What should people know about the honeybee population and how raw honey is made?
A: Bees have an extremely organized social setup. The queen rules everyone; she stays in the hive and lays eggs. There are also lots of sterile female bees called maidens.
The maidens tend to the baby bees, tend to the chores of the hive (bees are highly organized and very clean), defend the hive and collect pollen from local flora and fauna. Pollen is then packed into individual cells within the comb. Water is added and fermentation begins.
In our case, we pull 30 percent of the honey and leave the remainder for the bees. Raw honey means it hasn’t been heated and nothing else has been added to the honey. The flavors change as the pollen changes over the season; this change can be drastic.
Last year when we had all the smoke in the air our August honey actually had a smoky flavor to it. It made for fine whiskey drinks.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: We have several ways for you to participate and help the honeybee population. One, of course, is always buy raw local honey from your local beekeeper.
The next is renting or purchasing a hive and learning as little or as much as you like about beekeeping itself. You could join us at a tasting or class.
We have paired up with Appel Farms to offer cheese making classes, too. Why cheese making? Because cheese and honey are delicious together. When we do honey tastings people’s eyes light up when they taste the differences between a May honey and an October honey.
Most people tell me that after they do a honey tasting they start to notice what is flowering and how they could alter their landscapes to better provide for the bees. They also seem to limit or completely stop their use of pesticides. And that’s more than I could ever hope for.
Q: Do you wish to share anything else about your business?
A: Don’t forget the bees.
Marie’s Bees is located at 1196 Lingbloom Road in Bellingham. To learn more, visit mariesbees.com.
Papetti’s answers have been edited for clarity purposes.