Mike Poe is the founder of Baby Bee Apiaries in Carlisle, PA. He manages around 60 hives across central PA, bottles and sells honey, and safely removes bee swarms. Here he shares expert info about honey, bees, and how people can help them thrive.
Q: Why are bees and their hives threatened?
A: Lots of beehives don’t survive for several reasons. Climate change can make conditions too hot, too cold, or too wet for bees. If they don’t have plants to pollinate, they must travel further from the hive and might not make it back. There’s also a nasty pest called the Varroa mite that can destroy an otherwise healthy hive. Beehive theft has also become more common because bees are such valuable pollinators.
Q: What can people do to help the bees?
A: The first thing people can do is create spaces for bees to pollinate. Instead of mowing your entire lawn, let wildflowers and weeds grow—bees love those. You can also plant insect-loving flowers in your garden. It’s important not to fear bees. They are often exterminated when people mistake them for hornets or when they swarm in an inconvenient spot. Call your local beekeeper to safely move them. Be sure to buy local honey from your grocery store or farmer’s market. This supports the beekeepers who are helping the bees survive.
Q: What are some facts that fascinate you about bees?
A: In the winter, bees will cluster together to keep warm, then rotate their positions from the inside out so no one is getting too overheated or cold and so they can access all the food they’ve stored. People also tend to think that bees get all their nectar from flowers, but trees are also an important food source because they’re the first to bloom in spring.
Q: Does honey really vary in flavor?
A: Honey will look and taste very different depending on where they get their nectar. This changes with the location and the seasons—lighter, more floral honey in the spring and darker, richer honey in the fall. Even though my beehives are in neighboring towns in central PA, the honey will vary a lot. You can even taste them side-by-side like you would different wines.
Q: How do you use honey at home?
A: My wife likes to use our honey in baked goods. I’ve also sold it to shops that use it to flavor frosting for cupcakes or even ice cream. I like to drizzle it over cereal or toast. I’ll also just eat it by the spoonful, especially when I have a cold (honey is known as an ancient remedy).