What happens when a girl that somewhat likes honey but knows nothing about honey or
bees gets convinced by her brother to be his beekeeping assistant? She starts an urban
I call myself the reluctant beekeeper. My whole life I've appreciated nature, how food is
made and prepared, and how lucky we humans are to create and enjoy the meals we have. I' m that person that on global travels brings home ‘a grocery store’ of whatever I find that I'd like to take home from that culture. I never thought I'd be a beekeeper. Actually, I was always nervous around bees, and over 10 years later, I still am. I am not that cool beekeeper that tends the hives without gloves, or a veil, or a jacket. I'm just not. I suit up as if going on a dive and check my gear. Hopefully that adrenaline just keeps me careful!
So how did the person only interested in jarring and enjoying honey become a beekeeper? T’was my brother’s idea. We enjoyed doing old time traditions that our parents and grandparents and those before them practiced. It‘s in our blood you see to make, create, and zen out to simple but pleasurable details. We grew up in a family of Italians that love life, work hard, and enjoy fine pleasures of life. I can say now looking back, we lived in the moment. Every song, hike, adventure, road trip, kayak, cave, and just lazy mountain napping under a tree on a blanket with a picnic adventures were just that. I have fantastic memories of spending our summers in Europe, mostly Italy, with family and on our Nonna’s farm. There I remember the trouble we d get into but also the beauty of caring for animals, the long sunny hours playing in the fields collecting camomile and poppy flowers and chewing on flavorful long grasses. Artist Auntie always having paintings being created and wonderful aromas of foods coming from everyone's home. I loved the trebbiatura and the vendemia but mostly just playing and walking the vineyard with my Nonno and fields just me, my imagination, and my family.
My Uncle had so many beehives I never even counted how many. I steered clear of the
hives, but had no worries enjoying spoon after spoon of the pale almost clear incredible
‘ape’ nectar. He was a very conscientious beekeeper and avid environmentalist. He's who
first taught me what terroire and DOP and DOC meant. On mountain hikes it was
always forbidden to take even a flower. We'd drink from mountain streams and study the
starts. He forced me to question everything and anything that I had learned in life or took
as law. He to me was the closest relative I had to Leonardo da Vinci (my role model).
So back to the USA, with my brother and I and this grand beekeeping plan. In theory, we
were going to have a hive or two, just enough for our families. My brother was the
beekeeper, and I the nervous assistant. (Yes we had that embroidered on our suits).
After all, he had the experience and fearlessness, not me. He had helped my uncle with the apiary, I only knew about the centrifuge and that honey from around the world and from different sources tasted vastly different and that I loved each and every one.
As time went on, my brother had less time for our bees. And I, being the nurturing new
mom (to a human), couldn't bear to give up on the bees. It took lots of courage as well as patience but I kept at it. I contacted my Italian Uncle for advice and assistance, joined our
local beekeeping association, read loads of books and articles (just a few cover to cover
most others just as needed), subscribed to two American beekeeping journals, found a
mentor and great friend, and before long…..I was a beekeeper with an apiary.
As the hives grew, my confidence slowly grew. I remembered what my Uncle told me
and will never forget. He said, "study the bee, learn what the bee needs and wants, not
only what you want and what you read. Keep the bee safe. You are a bee ‘keeper’ and
your task is not to poison them with chemicals but to do your best to keep them healthy".
Being an urban apiary, this information and belief is of utmost importance. I started to
truly take time to sit still and watch nature, notice blooms, notice the bees flight patterns,
if they were coming into the hives with pollen, how they behaved. I was starting to
understand that not all practices of beekeeping are equal and not all agricultural or
ornamental horticulture practices are in the interest of humans or honeybees. One man’s
poison is another man’s medicine and vice versa.
We work to keep the hives as healthy as possible. Using only wood frames with wax
foundations, feeding and giving them vitamins and essential oils as needed, avoiding as
much as possible plastics and synthetics in their homes is what we do. That is what I
realized I could do. We cannot control what the bees do outside of the hive or where they
fly so we do our best in the apiary and hives.
It's fun to sample the honey the bees bring in fresh from the hive and to notice of the
color, flavor, and consistency. Drawing from my Italian upbringing, I categorize our
artisanal honeys that way. Longing for flavors of honey from various plant sources such
as lavender, sunflower, and thyme and a seeking a creative outlet, I started to let my
imagination and memories take me on flavor adventures. This is where the paring of
dried herbs and spices with different honeys for fun culinary infused honeys began.
Currently, we have hives in the City of Wilmington and are always looking for more
rooftops and yards to expand to. We love the immediate conversation starter that having
urban hives bring, such as, the health of our environment, pollination, honey bee health,
pesticides and gardening chemicals, and honey profiles.
Picture this, one sees a beekeeper walking down the street, one sees hives in town, one
notices honey bees in the yard or community gardens, one finds local honey in a local
shop, and they say, ask, or think: Bees in town? Will I get stung? Why do we need bees
in town? Do they make honey? I thought bees were in other states. And then curiosity
takes hold, questions are answered, it becomes clear that honeybees are not hornets and wasps, and suddenly it becomes apparent that for the foods and life we enjoy, we all
need honeybees near and far to us. We learn how to keep honey bees and our
environment safe. We start to notice small things, the details, life a bit more in the
moment, and finally realize that we all can and must live together.