The Chassidic Beekeeper is dedicated to a deeply respectful approach to the ancient art of beekeeping (and don’t be confused–it is an art, not an industry).
The impetus for this project came from my discovery that virtually all commercial honey operations (even most of those that sell at farmers markets) use the following practices (this is not an exhaustive list):
- they apply poisons or chemicals directly inside their beehives twice a year to prevent or treat pests or diseases;
- they plunder as much honey as possible during harvest season and then feed their bees high fructose corn syrup or other cheap sugars (sometimes even dried vegetable oil);
- they restrict the queen bee’s ability to roam freely inside a hive by the use of screens;
- they restrict a hive’s ability to reproduce naturally by clipping the queen’s wings or destroying new queens born in the hive;
- they use plastic foundation which creates unnaturally large worker bees whose immune systems are not able to fully develop;
- they support the continued degradation of the honeybee gene pool by purchasing artificially inseminated queens and “pedigreed” bees rather than letting their queens mate naturally.
I do the opposite of all these practices. That is:
- I do not apply ANY poisons or chemicals EVER either inside or outside any beehive. The only thing I treat my bees with is respect;
- I let the bees keep, on average, 60-100 pounds of honey for their own supply each year and NEVER feed them cheap sugars (a policy completely unheard of in industrial beekeeping operations, since honey equals money afterall);
- I allow the queen unrestricted access to all areas of the hive, a practice known as “unlimited brood nest”;
- I let the bees build their own wax foundation at the size and shape they see fit;
- My bees are feral and my queens mate naturally, increasing the diversity of genetic material and breeding strong, disease-resistant bees for future generations.
Ask your local beekeeper which of the above lists better describes his or her beekeeping policy; you may be surprised by the answer.
How Is This Honey Different From All Other Honeys?
The primary differences between most honeys and The Chassidic Beekeeper honey are in the treatment of the hives, as described above.
Another huge difference is that my honey is composed of nectar from a wide range of flowers and plant types that grow on the Biodynamic farm where the bees currently live, and other wildflowers in the vicinity. The farm grows a vast variety of medicinal, culinary, and native plants including apple trees, pear trees, poppies, nasturtiums, sage, thyme, mint, citrus, pomegranate, mallows, morning glories, tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, and more.
Honey from hives in different areas will taste unique depending on the forage for that area. Flavor dependent on location is described in the winemaking world as “terroir,” which means the flavor associated with a specific soil, climate, and environment. Honey has similar taste variations noticeable even between two hives.
Often, these unique flavor variations are lost when honey from hundreds or thousands of hives is mixed together. In an effort to emphasize these unique distinctions, I will be experimenting with single-hive and single-location batches of honey (akin to what a “single malt” whiskey is in the whiskey world). This is another concept completely unheard of in industrial beekeeping.
A New Way
My main goal is to provide the purest honey possible for the Tishrei season–honey which comes from bees that were tended with intention and with the least amount of human intervention possible. Where else can you buy honey harvested with the intention that it bring sweetness into the lives of those who eat it?
Of course this honey may be used for other purposes as well.
In addition, if my bees eventually produce enough wax, I would also like to provide beeswax candles especially for those traditions which call for beeswax candles (like the shamash for Chanuka and the candle for bedikas chometz) and for havdallah.
As a Jewish beekeeper, my spiritual and intellectual life greatly inform how I interact with my bees. I am awed by their ability to gather nectar from millions of flowers and distill it into a delicious, nutrient-dense food.
I believe that the world is designed in such a way that when things are allowed to live as they were designed, then they will need little or no human involvement to “help.”
It is my promise to myself and to my bees never to treat them with anything whose title ends in “-cide.” I don’t even treat with natural remedies as do some “organic” beekeepers. I will never feed anything to my bees except honey and pollen if they need it.
It is my firm belief that a robustly healthy beehive will be able to thrive even against the threat of mite infestations or most diseases. After all, bees have been around since time immemorial and they never needed people to treat them with miticides or antibiotics, or with anything for that matter. In fact, for most of history the main interaction between bees and people was when people went out on honey hunts to plunder feral beehives.
One of the ways I’m able to ensure that my bees are as healthy as possible is that I keep a very limited number of hives, which means they produce a very limited amount of honey, relatively speaking. For this reason, The Chassidic Beekeeper honey and wax will be in extremely limited supply, especially these first years (2012-2014).