Heart of Gold

Heart of gold: Wisdom shared by beekeeper Mckenzie Hintz of Bee Happy Botanicals

November 26, 2020

How does veganism play into your beekeeping philosophies?

Great question! Naturally I get asked this a lot. Veganism and my outlook on the world, plays a big role in my bee keeping approach & philosophies. I like to say “I'm not in it for the honey”. Honey is of course, such a special gift to be able to work with, but it is not my main priority. I created Bee Happy Botanicals with the intention to help nourish, strengthen, prevent extermination and protect bees, not because I want to harvest tons of honey. It is also important to me that I provide a natural and sustainable apiary for the bees I tend to which includes, never using chemicals or treating with synthetic hormones. I am part of a group of women who all practice natural beekeeping, so it is great to have a community where we help and learn from each other. While we are beekeepers, we refer to being ‘Bee Guardians’ because we honor the Honey Bee and our Earth in many ways.

Describe the role of bees in our ecosystem…

Tiny creatures, dancing from flower to flower gathering beneficial pollen & sweet nectar for their colony while simultaneously providing us with nutritious food, honey bees are constantly working. Apis Mellifera, the Honey Bee, are the most effective pollinators for fruits and vegetables. Originally from Europe, Honeybees were brought to the U.S to increase farm yields and feed a growing nation. Today, they are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the food we consume. That's right, 1 in 3 bites of food was made possible by a Honeybee! Throughout the country, Honey bees are moved around to pollinate our favorite fruits, veggies & flowers! Not only do they pollinate endless crops, they also help revitalize the natural world and help us to thrive.

Biggest wisdom / advice you’ve learned from the bees?

I have learned so much about myself and our natural world while working with bees. The biggest thing I have learned so far is to not be afraid, to challenge yourself and to observe.

Whether I’m taking care of my own hives or rescuing a new one, I always learn something new. I truly enjoy everything about working with bees! It’s exciting, empowering, scary, extremely rewarding and totally worth all the hard work. Working with bees brings me closer to nature and my surroundings. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a bee guardian is how much I am challenged to adapt, much like the bees. No bee day is ever the same. These little ladies seriously keep me on my toes!

What do you wish people would start doing to protect and honor our pollinators?

To protect and honor our pollinators means we protect and honor the environment around us! For me, being a bee guardian means being a steward of this Earth. The easiest, most effective and fun way to help ensure the survival of pollinators is to plant, beneficial plants! Some other ways to effectively help pollinators…

-Plant flowers and flowering veggies & herbs in your garden or nearby space using ORGANIC practices.

-Stop the use of toxic chemicals, pesticides, weed killers ect… and encourage neighbors to do the same!

-Leave the weeds! We are often quick to rip out ‘weeds’ but these can be some of the most beneficial flowers for pollinators, as they are usually the first to bloom in the spring, providing early nectar and pollen for bees (like dandelions).

-Bees need water! Like us, bees drink a lot of water to sustain their energy. A simple dish of water or bird bath in the garden can make a big difference! Be sure to include rocks or something for the bees to land on, as they are not the best swimmers.

-Purchase honey from local beekeepers and or at farmers markets. Honey is a product that has little to no store regulations. Meaning that the majority of honey in stores is heated to high temperatures and mixed with cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, losing all medicinal benefits. Honey right from the hive is so much more delicious and full of beneficial antioxidants.

-Support local & organic farmers. Supporting organic practices increases the demand for organic farming. Organic farming practices help keep pollinators healthy!

-Learn more about honey bees & pollinators, or become a bee guardian! There are tons of beekeeping groups and organizations to join to learn more.

What plants would you recommend people plant for pollinators?

Depends on where you live, but there are tons of resources online to find out what grows best in your area. For us here in SoCal we are lucky because almost anything grows here! It is important to practice organic gardening when planting for pollinators, garden insects and overall soil health. Some of the easiest plants to grow for pollinators are…

Sunflower, Calendula, Sage, Zinnia, Borage, Fennel, Lavender, Lantana, Poppies, Yarrow, Buckwheat, Lilacs, Milkweed, Evening Primrose, Daisy, Babys Breath, Bergamot, Lupine, Clover, Basil...the list goes on!

How long does it take for bees to produce honey, and how many bees does it take to produce a jar?

A single Honey bee will only produce about a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime (about 30 days). For a tiny little body that is a lot of honey! But to us, it's hardly a drop. A one pound jar of honey contains the nectar from 2 million flowers! Depending on climate, forage available and many other factors, a beekeeper may only harvest honey once a season (or not at all) from a hive they care for all year. Since all of the hives I have come from rescues, it takes at least a year for bees to build up a solid supply of honey. The honey that bees create, is their food too! It is super important to leave plenty of honey for the hive to eat, if you are going to harvest. Honey has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties, ability to heal wounds, soothe aching throats, antibacterial properties, sweet taste, incredible texture and spiritual meanings. Honey is packed full of antioxidants

What should people not do when they find a hive?

If you get the chance to find a wild hive, be sure not to disturb them! Bees are wild creatures and although they can be very sweet at times, it is best to observe them from a safe distance. If a swarm lands at your house, best to call a bee rescue service to relocate them safely.

What is the problem with the industrial honey system?

There are many issues within the industrial honey system. The worst part of it all is the lack of respect for the bees! Within the commercial industry of beekeeping, bees are overworked, treated with harsh chemicals and given synthetic hormones to ramp up honey production. Commercial beekeeping practices manipulate bees to produce more honey, faster and interferes with the way bees naturally thrive. A very similar model to animal factory farming.
In stores today there are little to no regulations on the quality of honey and most are filled with fake sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Can you tell if a hive has been exposed to pesticides?

Yes, their behavior is much different than that of a healthy hive. Toxic chemicals can destroy even the strongest hives. Beekeepers may start to notice piles of dead bees with their tongues sticking out, outside of the hive entrance. It's so important to practice organic gardening and encourage others to do the same!

How does jewelry empower you?

Oh how I love jewelry! I don’t think I go a day without wearing a few pieces. Although, a typical outfit for me is ripped jeans, white tank top and dainty gold jewelry, I love love love to wear statement pieces. Something I look forward to every year is dancing at festivals covered in my favorite jewelry pieces. Jewelry can be so empowering. I love anything gold, native American or with unique stones and I especially love chokers.

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