This was a sweet invite :-)
Several weeks ago I replied to a thread posted in the Connecticut Bloggers Facebook group about a limited invite to Red Bee Honey in Weston, Connecticut. I’m certain I was one of the first to respond with a “like” and a comment, and when I was chosen to tag along I let out an enthusiastic “yissss!” That right there is the excitable version of the word “yes.”
I won’t pretend to know any REAL specifics about what goes on at a honey bee apiary except that honey is collected. While I may not know the ins and outs of the beesness, I have secretly always had an interest in beekeeping and have even entertained the idea of taking a class or two just to fulfill my own curiosity. Whenever I saw anything about bees or honey or both on TV, I always watched and thought putting on the suit with the screened head cover looked cool since you’re right in the thick of it. Something about it all seemed so exhilarating. I also love honey and use it on a variety of foods (yeah, I cook), so knowing what goes on at an apiary is fascinating because you get to know where your food comes from and the work that goes into it.
Was I excited? It’s pretty obvious, and in a very nerdy way.
On the day of the Red Bee experience I packed up my camera and ventured out into the thick, humid air with jeans on—hey, I’ll be honest, I was just hoping not to get stung anywhere up the leg openings if I wore shorts.
I sped on over to Lyons Plain Road, where I had driven many times over and never realized Red Bee was right there. I didn’t really know what to expect. I wanted to learn, taste some honey, and get up close and personal with the bees. I did all three.
I swung my car door open by Red Bee’s gate and was immediately greeted by a pack of egg laying chickens, but like a lot of chickens, I was told there are 30. After I spent time trying to chase them with my camera, and was able to focus again, I met owner Marina Marchese and Kristine Nora (who seems to do a little of everything at Red Bee). They told me to walk around the “farm” and off I went.
First, I checked out their brand new barn that’s filled with a bunch of honey-based products (everything from honeycomb and wildflower honey to lip balm and skin care) and the back area where they bottle and pack their goods. On the grounds there’s a good sized garden, a pond (saw frogs!), and a bunch of bee hives and got pretty close even without a suit and without getting stung—yet. I got briefly acquainted with Marina’s trusty barn dog—appropriately named Honey—and grabbed a glass of prosecco.
The other bloggers and I then gathered by the chicken coop for a briefing on what goes on at Red Bee, how things got started, and some bee facts.
Mind Your Own Beeswax!
- Marina got in the bee biz after hanging with a friend who had Italian honey bees on his property. She told us she was “free at the time, and didn’t have a boyfriend, so why not?”
- We need bees more than some of us may realize. Fruits, veggies, some nuts, and even coffee all require pollination. See? Not just about that honey, honey.
- Bee Sex Talk: Male bees (or drones) mate with the queen and die right after. Damn, homie, that’s harsh. Queens can store sperm and selectively release it during her life span (2-7 years), laying around 2,000 eggs per day. Drones pollinate and gather nectar, female bees (workers) make the honey.
- Red Bee sells bee pollen and we were told it acts as a vitamin. You can take it every day but may need to build up a tolerance since you can develop a reaction.
- Honey is great for runners. The simple carbs, and pure forms of glucose and fructose are easily absorbed by our bodies and is a terrific energy source. Think of it as a natural substitute for those gel packs.
- A spoonful of honey may not cure the common cold, but it is a remedy for quick fix relief.
- Red Bee's products are used and can be purchased at a bunch of local restaurants and specialty stores including: The Whelk, Artisan, Tarry Market, Fleisher's Craft Butchery, Fairfield Cheese Co., Olivette, New Canaan Olive Oil, Harbor Harvest, and Murray's Cheese in NYC.
(Top of plate going clockwise, and honey from left to right)
Linden honey - goat cheese, pollen, lemon zest, walnuts, mint.
Red berry honey - blue cheese and dates.
Crystallized honey - apples and tahini
Blueberry honey - brie and blueberries
Buckwheat honey - roasted tomatoes and balsamic
To escape the heat, and fill our bellies, we went back inside the barn to the second floor for a honey tasting/food pairing and a light lunch of cucumber sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, salad, and breadsticks. The bonus was that we got to try (guzzle) the collaboration beer of Red Bee’s honey and Half Full Brewery’s kolsch that I simply couldn’t get enough of. We easily went through a few 32 oz. crowlers (that’s a can growler!) of the slightly sweet, highly carbonated, but light brew.
|Newest Avenger: Bee Suit Drew|
Finally, for me, it was the moment of truth. I got to put on the bee suit and get REALLY close to the hives. Anything for a photo, right? It was steamy in the suit but it was kind of exhilarating and there was a weird feeling of vulnerability even though I knew I was virtually safe. I escaped that day with one sting while I took my suit off, probably from a honey bee that landed and stayed on the suit. That single sting is a win, I totally expected to leave Red Bee with at least two.
On my way out I stayed and chatted with Marina and Kristine a bit more and found out they’re doing a honey harvest a week into August. They invited me back to actually open the hives and gather the sweet stuff. Interested? Yeah, you betcha. I’m practically buzzing at the chance to go back.