June 20, 2016

0 Comments


Hive Highlight: Emma

We take pride in the hives that we build and are dedicated to offering exceptional support for our customers. However, neither of these things would be possible without each and every worker bee in our hive. In this Hive Highlight, meet Emma. Not only is Emma our principal beekeeper in our apiary in Southeast Portland, she also works in our retail space and teaches classes through our education department, spreading bee knowledge and fun wherever she goes. Thank you for all you do, Emma!

 

Are you a beekeeper or a bee lover?

Both!


What kind of hive do you mostly work with?

Warre & Top Bar Hive


How would you describe your beekeeping philosophy?

I lean towards a minimal intervention approach in the apiary. Honeybees have a far greater understanding of the inner workings of their hives than I ever will, and I think that we are currently seeing the consequences of too much human intervention over the past century. I am a proponent of allowing bees the opportunity to find a balance in the world again, and I think that requires us to take a step back and focus on creating an environment that is healthy and safe for our bees.


What initially interested you most about the company?

I was very drawn to the Bee Thinking culture, which is centered around providing the community with the education and resources necessary to support our struggling pollinators and impact the world in a positive way. It takes a lot of work, but everyone here is passionate about what we’re doing, which makes it a lot of fun, too.

Emma spreads the laughter while teaching our Beeswax Beauty and Wellness class

 

How much honey do you eat every week?

None! I actually don’t enjoy eating honey, which gets me a lot of weird looks... I do use it in skin care and medicinal recipes frequently, though!


Who’s your favorite queen bee?

My favorite queen bee would have to be my mother. She has always been so supportive of my interests and dreams, and I don’t think I would have ended up where I did without that constant encouragement. She also is a fiercely independent and hard-working lady that keeps life exciting - just like any good queen bee should.


What do you enjoy about working in the apiary and the retail space?

They are both so wonderful in very different ways! I adore working in the retail space, because I get to spend my time with people who are excited to learn about the thing that I love the most. It’s fun to share their excitement and help get them established in beekeeping. I obviously love the apiary, because I get to hang out in a gorgeous location full of honeybees, observing their life cycle and participating in it, as well. It is endlessly fascinating to watch them grow through the seasons, tough it out through the winter, and then begin again in the spring.


What fascinates you most about bees?

The idea of a superorganism is amazing to me. There are all of these tiny, individual parts that come together and operate as a single-minded whole. Thousands and thousands of bees have to be in agreement at all times about where to establish a hive, when to swarm, when to raise a new queen, what kind of brood and how much needs to be raised, and on and on and on. It’s pretty cool.


What do you do for fun outside of Bee Thinking?

Explore Oregon with my husband, work in my garden, play my cello, experiment with skin care formulas, binge watch Game of Thrones, binge read sci-fi series, play Neopets, win unofficial beer pong tournaments.


What do you think bees dream about?

Flowers! Those must be the most beautiful dreams ever.

June 17, 2016

2 Comments


Local Beekeeper Spotlight: Alexander Howitt

Here at Bee Thinking, we love connecting with local beekeepers and bee lovers right in our own community. We were thrilled when Alexander Howitt, owner of Portland’s One Twenty Apiculture, walked into our shop and introduced himself. We’re excited to carry Alexander’s raw, wildflower honey in our shop.

What’s really special about Alexander’s honey is his focus on keeping it local. Each bottle is labeled with the Portland zip code it was harvested and packaged in. The flavor may be slightly different from zip code to zip code and that’s what we love about this honey! The flavor variation harkens back to the unique neighborhoods where the local species of flowers or berries make their way into the flavor profile of the honey. We decided to sit down with Alexander and learn a bit more about his beekeeping journey.

 

How long have you been a beekeeper?

I’ve been a beekeeper for a little over eight years. The first four of those years was for two different commercial beekeeping companies in New Zealand, which is where I’m from. I learned hard and fast from them during those years. I remember watching the beekeepers for a whole week before I was allowed to get into a beehive by myself. During that time I learned a lot of respect for beekeeping. I also learned a lot from the commercial beekeepers’ mistakes and shortcuts that they were taking. They were always harsher with the bees than I wanted to be, what with moving them around a lot and feeding them crappy sugar syrup. I learned that, when I started beekeeping myself, I wanted to do it completely differently.

After that, I traveled around Southeast Asia and worked with different small beekeeping organizations. And now I’ve been beekeeping here for two and a half years.


How did you initially get into beekeeping in the first place, with the commercial beekeeping companies?

A family friend asked me to come out and work there one summer when I was 16. The first week I got stung about 100 times, and I worked day and night moving bees around the east cape of the north island in New Zealand. I kind of fell in love with the craziness of it: the bee stings, the challenge, getting stuck in the mud and having to get out before the sun came up and the bees started flying. It was always really challenging and demanding of my body, and I kind of enjoyed that challenge.


And what made you move from New Zealand to Portland?

Well, my partner got relocated for work, so I kind of just got dragged along. *Laughs* It ended up being a good thing for both of us. I really enjoy Portland, it’s quite similar to New Zealand. People here like being outdoors: hiking, camping, barbequing, that sort of thing. I’m into all of that kind of stuff, too.


How many hives do you have now?

I have about 40 hives right now, scattered around Portland and all of Oregon, actually. I have a couple out on the coast in Manzanita, a couple over in North Portland, and then I have some pollinating an organic blueberry farm in Sherwood. Those are pollinating blueberries for Our Table Cooperative, and they sell blueberries to New Seasons Market, which is pretty cool.


All of the hives stay in their spot all year round. If I were to rent a hive for a certain period, I would then leave that hive there all year round so the hives only get moved once per year. Because I’m not capitalizing on pollination like a lot of the bigger guys are, I have to find another angle. I also do consults and sell local honey to get some more revenue.


All of my hives are 10-frame Langstroth, but I also help clients manage Top Bar and Warre hives, as well as some home-built hives.


What’s your favorite part about beekeeping?

My favorite part is the feeling I get every time I go beekeeping. I could be having the worst day or something else could be going on in my life and I can go beekeeping. Yes, it’s hard work and occasionally you get stung, but there’s something sort of meditative about it that just calms you down and resets you. Being around the sound of the bees and just being constantly in awe of their abilities, and what they can do as a collective colony, I think it’s really unique. They keep surprising me year after year and I keep getting more and more involved.

 


And then for my logo, there are three parts: There’s the zip code bubble from where it’s made, then the bee’s wings, and then the honey droplet. The logo was designed by Kyle Lindell, a local graphic designer. They’re printed locally as well, which is just another way I try to keep everything local. The honey is usually produced, extracted, and bottled on site or within that zip code. I’ll travel with my equipment to process the honey and ideally sell it in the zip code that it was produced in to keep it local and reduce the carbon footprint.

Shop his honey here

June 07, 2016

2 Comments


Honeyed Meyer Lemon Curd

Although this article was posted by our marketing team, the content was provided by Hillary Bergh of foodheals.net.
Hillary Bergh is a 5th generation chef with a passion for kitchen play. Growing up in the kitchens of her families' multiple restaurants gave her a solid foundation that was then developed further while working as a manager at Bouchon Bakery, chef and wine club manager at Swanson Vineyards, and executive chef at Google with Bon Appetit Management Company. She holds two culinary certifications along with a nutrition certification and is currently earning a bachelor of science in healthcare management. 
View full article →
June 02, 2016

0 Comments


May 20, 2016

1 Comment


May 20, 2016

0 Comments


May 16, 2016

0 Comments


Producer Highlight: Fringe Meadery

With summer quickly approaching, crisp and sparkling beverages seem to be on everyone's mind. Portland's Fringe Meadery is leaving an impact on the tastebuds of local beer and wine enthusiasts alike, and in celebration of the coming summer days we decided to interview their founder and owner, Nathan Mattis.

 

 

 

What initially drew you to mead?

Mead came into my life while I was attending school at UC Davis for winemaking. My roommates and I would brew nonstop in our kitchen, and one day we tried making mead.From that point on I never really stopped making it, although it took me a while to actually start brewing for other people.

 

How did Fringe happen? 

Before college, I had previously worked in the software industry writing stock market code. It just so happened that the stars aligned. My boss was planning to turn a building she owned into a vodka distillery and offered me a job as head distiller. I spent over a year doing this, although mead was always in the back of my mind. My ‘aha’ moment was when I was tasting mead with some friends, and one of them was blown away and told me that I should be selling it. In that moment I was like, “Huh. I really should be”.  After the distillery closed, I decided that it was time to make a meadery happen. I partnered with Ken Bonnin, Jr. of Hi-Wheel Wine Co. to open a winery space where we could co-exist together, and Fringe was born. Production started in 2014--it’s hard to believe we’ve been open for a year and a half already!

 

 

 

Where does the name “Fringe” come from? 

I’ve always liked the word, and always felt that I was kind of “on the fringe”. The mead industry is definitely on the fringe. Plus it’s a fun word to say everyday (laughs).

 

What types of mead do you make? 

The original goal was to make mead like wine, using the same aging process and alcohol content. A really fun part of making this happen was getting to know all the different honey varietals and flavor notes. I actually have more than thirty types of honey at home now!

The first three meads that we released were created in a wine-strength style, though wine bottle shops don’t usually know what to make of honey wine. When I could get them to try it, they loved it every time. But mead is new to so many people that we decided to start playing with sessions to help bridge the gap.  

The goal is to create whimsical, clean session-style meads that will act as a gateway for newcomers to the world of honey wine. New Seasons was blown away, and we’re excited to make this new venture happen!

 

 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in the mead industry thus far? 

The business skills I’ve learned are invaluable. I really enjoy playing all the different roles that business ownership requires. Besides that, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you really have to take a wholesale approach to make a meadery a business that sustains itself. For me, it’s about finding a balance between what the general consumer might want and retaining the quality and soul of my own personal vision. I’ve also been very surprised by how similar honey and grapes are--the flavors vary significantly based on varietal, seasonality, terroir, and yearly changes.

 

If you were a type of mead, what kind would you be? 

My oldest mead is a 5 year old blackberry called Black Frankenstein. I kept trying this one, and now there’s just one bottle left in existence. If I could be any mead, that would definitely be the one.

 

Besides making mead, what do you like to do for fun? 

I really enjoy live music, especially at smaller venues around Portland!

March 22, 2016

1 Comment


Weed of the Month: Dandelion

 

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”- A.A. Milne

 

 

 

Photo from realnatural.org 

 

The dandelion has classically been considered a weed but, unbeknownst to many gardeners, these sweet yellow flowers are some of the first food of the year for bees. Their blossoms are often the first to appear when spring has arrived, and they can be found growing almost anywhere that humans thrive in North America. Bees have no problem finding beneficial uses for this underrated plant and, given the health-boosting properties dandelions can have for humans, it seems that we should take a tip from them!

 

 

Photo from plantcurator.com

 

From the flower to the roots, every part of Taraxacum officinale can benefit the health and vitality of humans. Dandelion leaves are a top-notch digestive bitter, so feel free to toss them into that spring green salad for digestive support. Their roots detoxify the liver and, when roasted, make a delicious tea. Their flower heads, besides serving as great source of nectar for bees, can also be harvested to make delicious homebrewed dandelion wine. For the dandelions that you don’t harvest, we encourage you to allow these sunny flowers to flourish for the bees until they turn into fluffy wishes!



A bee friendly reminder: never use herbicides. These toxins are part of the reason why honey bees and native pollinators are struggling for survival. Either let them grow wild and free or pay that neighborhood kid a buck to weed them for you.

March 08, 2016

0 Comments


Planting for Pollinators: Your Planting Guide for March

 

 

 We imagine that Ralph Waldo Emerson penned the famous quote, “The earth laughs in flowers” while sitting in the midst of a brilliantly blooming pollinator garden.  As the cherry blossoms are starting to flower in the Pacific northwest, we are getting excited to share along in the laughter this spring by planning out our beautiful, buzzing pollinator-friendly gardens.


If you’ve ever wondered which plants you can cultivate to attract pollinators, this blog series is perfect for you. Planting for Pollinators is your monthly guide to building out beautiful pollinator gardens according to your region, following the natural duration of the honey bee foraging season from March to October. We will post different varietals native to your region each month, according to the seasonal timing in which they should be planted. Our goal is for you to look out across your pollinator garden on the cusp of fall and feel satisfied with all the flowers and pollinators that have come and gone.

 

The following flowers are planted in March to bloom in April and May. 

 

 

Pacific Northwest

  • Salmon Berry (Rubus spectabilis) is a native perennial shrub that produces beautiful magenta buds in the spring and tasty berries in the summer. You can find them all along creeksides in the forests of British-Columbia to Oregon along the Cascade Mountain Range. This is a wonderful plant for early-mid spring bee food and late spring-early summer human snacks!
  • Broadleaf Lupine (Lupinus latifolius) Native to the Pacific Northwest from British-Columbia to Northern California, broadleaf lupine has beautiful blue flowers that bloom in late spring. This is an excellent perennial flower to plant in early spring.

 

 Nootka Rose. Photo from www.nwplants.com.

 

  • Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) This perennial rose is dappled all along the Pacific coast. It blossoms in late spring/early summer, then turns into rose hips. If you’ve never encountered rose hips, you’re in for a treat. These tiny fruits are high in vitamin C and can be infused in honey for a truly effective winter immune booster.

 

 

West Coast 

  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) Who doesn’t know this little spring and summer sweetheart? This bright orange flower heralds the glorious days of summer, and bees love it! It is an excellent drought-tolerant flower that grows well in many different soil types and has historically been used as a remedy for depression, insomnia, anxiety, and promote relaxation.

 

Wooly leaf mountain lilac. Photo from www.calscape.cnps.org. 

 

  • Wooly Leaf Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus) This evergreen perennial shrub is happiest in chaparral areas and grows well in clay. It has gorgeous blue flowers that bloom in spring and emit a heavenly fragrance.
  • Douglas Iris (Iris douglasianai) Native to Northern California’s coasts, this perennial beauty is a stately addition to a west coast pollinator garden.

 

 

Southwest

  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linaris) This eye-popping flower is fast growing and, because of its adaptations to desert living, it is also drought resistant. Southwestern gardeners will find it easy to maintain

 

 Texas prickly pear. Photo from www.swtreesandturf.com.

 

  • Texas Prickley Pear (Oputia engelmannii) This native cactus is an abundant nectar source for honey bees, boasts gorgeous flowers, and is native to many regions of the southwest.
  • Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) A lovely native, this spiny small tree is a wonderful food source for all sorts of wildlife--from deer to small mammals, and birds to honey bees. Blue palo verde has a high nectar flow, which promotes honey production!

 

  

The Rockies 

  • Sand Verbana (Abronia fragrans) This plant boasts one of the sweetest-smelling perennial flowers in all of the rockies. Verbana is a superb addition to pollinator gardens.

 

Sego lily. Photo from commons.wikimedia.org. 

 

  • Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttallii) The indigenous Ute people called this flower “sego” and saved early Mormon settlers by teaching them to eat the bulbs when food was scarce. Today it is Utah’s state flower!
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) This is one of the most versatile and useful flowers in all of North America! Not only is it wonderful food for honey bees, it is an excellent herb for human medicinal use. The leaves, when made into a topical poultice, can stop bleeding and has historically been used to treat nose bleeds. The flowers have also been known to make an excellent headache remedy, fever reducer, and boost for the immune system.



Texas

  • Golden Tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria) This orange beauty can be found all along roadsides during spring. A sublimely showy flower, golden tickseed makes a beautiful addition to any garden.
  • Prairie Verbana (Glandularia bipinnatifida) These little purple beauties are an eye-catching addition to any pollinator garden, and are native to nearly all areas of the South!

 

 Texas blue bonnet. Photo from www.edenbrothers.com.

 

  • Texas Blue Bonnet (Lupinus texensis) No Texas pollinator garden would be complete without blue bonnets. If you’re a Texan, you probably already have a soft spot for these alluring indigo flowers. This variety grows well in the spring.



The Plains

  • Blue Dogbane (Amsonia tabernaemontana) Dogbane, and other milkweeds, are one of the most versatile nectar sources for pollinators, from honey bees to carpenter bees. Additionally, milkweeds are the only plant upon which monarch butterflies lay their eggs.
  • White Prickly Poppy (Argemone polyanthemos) Honey bees and native pollinators love this gorgeous white poppy. It grows well throughout the plains.

 

Butterfly weed. Photo from commons.wikimedia.org. 

 

  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) This bright butterfly-attractant boasts beautiful bright orange flowers. This variety of milkweed is beneficial for pollinators and humans alike. Its root was chewed by native american peoples when fighting pleurisy.

 

 

Midwest

  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)  This flower is native to the midwest and has gained popularity for its immune-boosting benefits! Bees love the flowers and humans love the medicinal properties of its roots, as can be seen in the vast array of echinacea products available.

 

 Green milkweed. Photo from www.prairiemoon.com. 

 

  • Green Milkweed (Asclepias hirtella) The varieties of milkweed are seemingly endless! These flowers are wonderful for honey bees and all pollinators.
  • Ohio Horsemint (Blephilia ciliata) This purple midwest native is a perennial flower that will not only please your honey bees, it will also attract many species of native pollinators and is deer-resistant.

 

 

The South

  • Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) A beautiful member of the snapdragon family, you can find it all through the wilds of the South.
  • Wine cup (Callirhoe digitata) The cupped shape of this sweet purple flower makes it particularly attractive to bees. It can grow in prairies, on grassy slopes, and in wooded regions.

 

Pink mimosa. Photo from www.discounttreesofbrenham.com.

 

  • Pink Mimosa (Mimosa borealis) You will never be short on fragrant breezes in your pollinator garden with this beautiful pink flowering shrub. Bees love the fluffy, fragrant flowers and sweet nectar!

 

 

Northeast

  • Allegheny Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) This native shrub is beneficial to nearly everyone who encounters it. Honey bees love to gather nectar from the clusters of fragrant white flowers, and their tasty berries are edible for both humans and birds, and are high in vitamin C.

 

Eastern red columbine. Photo from www.delawarewildflowers.org. 

 

  • Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) This alluring scarlet woodland wildflower is truly a show-stopper. Butterflies and bees love it and it is an eye-catching and impressive addition to a pollinator garden.
  • New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) This shrub bursts with beautiful fluffy white flowers in late spring. Interestingly, its leaves were made into a tea and drank during the Revolutionary War.

 

 

The North

  • Black Hawthorne (Crataegus douglasii) This short and shrubby hawthorne is a haven of berries for birds and offers delicious nectar for honey bees. Hawthorne honey, anyone?
  • Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) Not only is this lakeside plant wonderful for honey bee food, but the leaves have historically been made into a topical poultice to treat insect stings, bites and fight skin inflammation. Essential for any beekeeper’s garden.

 

Lance leaf coreopsis. Photo from www.discoverlife.org. 

 

  • Lance Leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) These little flowers will add a spray of sunny yellow to your pollinator garden. Honey bees and butterflies love them!




Planting for Pollinators’ Regional Key

  • Pacific Northwest- WA, OR, Northern CA, ID
  • West Coast-CA
  • Southwest- NM, NV, AZ, West TX
  • The Rockies- UT, CO, WY
  • Texas
  • The Plains- KS, OK, NE, IA, MO
  • Midwest- OH, IL, IN, KY, WV
  • The South- LA, MS, AL, GA, NC, SC, VA, FL
  • Northeast- ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, NY, DE, RI, PA, MD, NJ
  • The North- MT, ND, SD, MN, MI, WI
  •  

    March 01, 2016

    0 Comments


    A Review of 2015 For The Bees

      

     

    2015 was a heart-swarming year for bee health advocates and beekeepers around the world. While bee colony populations in the United States still remain in great peril, progress is being made on a legislative level to help increase healthy habitat for honeybees.  

    • In May, President Obama released a national strategy for promoting pollinator health. With this goal in mind, he set guidelines for pollinator-friendly management practices for federal lands as well as the Pollinator Research Action Plan.
    • In response to over 4 million signatures, the use of the neonicotinoid Sulfoxaflor was banned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
    • Beekeepers and food lovers across the world are in similar battles to protect bee populations and healthy food supplies. The slow foods movement to organic, locally grown foods has helped to reduce the overall use of pesticides in agriculture, therefore reducing pesticide exposure for bees.
    • Meanwhile, in Europe, seemingly inconclusive data and opposition from the National Farmers Union has actually allowed these pesticides to be reintroduced to certain regional crops. So the saga continues…
    • The home improvement chain, Lowe’s, has committed to removing neonicotinoids from their shelves over the next four years. Additionally, Home Depot announced that they would immediately start labeling plants that were pretreated with neonicotinoids, and would completely eliminate their use by the year 2018.
    • One of the world’s largest popcorn companies, Pop Weaver, has declared it will reduce the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds by 75% before 2018. Fun fact: Over 79% of corn seeds in the U.S. are coated with bee-harming chemicals.
    • Norway saw the development of the world’s first Bee Highway. The Norwegian city of Oslo has strongly encouraged the community to set up bee friendly areas throughout the town. There is even an interactive website to see which gardens, green spaces and rooftops are a part of the effort (Disclaimer: It’s in Norwegian!)
    • After a 137 year ban, Californians welcome back urban beekeeping to Los Angeles. In October, Los Angeles lifted a beekeeping ban that dated back to 1879. This puts LA in line with most other major U.S. cities, allowing residents the freedom to delve into the world of urban beekeeping.  

    While much progress was made in reducing the use of pesticides, there is still a lot of work to be done. Backyard beekeepers, urban farmers, and concerned gardeners are making a continued effort to restore bee populations and maintain healthy ecosystems for both bees and humans alike.


    Here's to pollinator health and continued progress in 2016!

     

    ________

    Written by Vin Gast, edited by Mahala Ray