What All the Buzz is About

A bit about bees at flour + water, from our resident Bee Lady, Miss Niki Shelley:

As people in the food industry, our initial interest in bees was motivated, unsurprisingly, by the exciting prospect of producing our own honey for the restaurant. Our investigations, however, led us to an unexpected place.

Through photographer Amanda Lane we met Michael Thiele, an holistic apiculturist in Sebastopol with a much different take on our relationship with bees. After spending time with Michael, we began to view the honeybee and our endeavor to keep them, as something bigger than the honey we’d originally planned to harvest.

The honeybee is a vital facet of our agricultural ecosystem – we depend on them to pollinate over 30% of the produce we consume. In the fall of 2006, what has come to be known as Colony Collapse Disorder became a hot topic in the media. Beekeepers across the United States that year reported losses of 30% of their hives with some beekeepers reporting losses up to 90% of all of their colonies. Looking for an answer has led some to re-evaluate the way in which we live with bees.

Focusing on sustainable and organic agriculture at Flour+Water, it was a natural progression for us to endow the honeybee with the same respect  we have for the animals and produce we use in the restaurant. This meant encouraging the hive to operate and evolve in a much more natural manner; to refrain from treating with pesticides, to build free hanging comb without the use of foundation – to interfere as little as possible and to let the bees do what they know is best for their own health and well-being. This also meant dramatically scaling back our expectations for harvesting honey.

We are currently in the process of letting the bees teach us what they need in order to thrive. The bee program at Flour+Water is very much an experiment in sustainability. The gift of pollination is of much greater importance to human survival than that of honey – the bees are telling us that, unless we are willing to re-evaluate our own sense of self, as well as our relationships with, and expectations of, the natural world, we could find ourselves in a very bleak situation.

Interested in learning more? Check out The Melissa Garden or email bees@flourandwater.com