Gold Star Honeybees — It’s not about the honey, Honey

It’s about the Bees,” says Christy Hemenway, owner of Gold Star Honeybees. She sells top bar beehive kits, teaches classes on natural beekeeping, and promotes healthy honeybees. She runs a beekeeping service in which she tends hives for folks who want to have bees, but don’t want to be the beekeeper! She says she is a lot like the pool guy who comes to clean your swimming pool, “only different!” She also tends several of her own hives. The recent buzz about bee populations is Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, and the importance of bees in agriculture. Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine wrote in the August 2009 issue, “…honeybees provide $15 billion of value to the US.” According to Christy, they pollinate one out of every three bites of the food we eat. When the announcement about Mrs. Obama’s organic garden (Spring 2009) on the White House lawn appeared in the news , Christy wanted to share her concern about healthy honeybees with the First Family, so she wrote to the President about the business she’d started to help protect honeybees. A few weeks later she received a cordial note from the President thanking her for writing. In late summer, Christy prepared to attend the Green Festival in Washington DC, to teach others about the benefits of top bar hives. While sending free passes and festival information to beekeeping groups in the DC area, she thought again of the White House garden. “Dear Mr. President,” she wrote, this time offering free passes for the First Family to attend the Green Festival. Soon after, a reply came in the form of an email from Charlie Brandts, America’s First Beekeeper! The President would be unable to attend the Green Festival, however Charlie Brandts invited Christy to meet with him at his place of employment, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to discuss beekeeping and top bar hives. “I was so excited! When I finally stopped doing back-flips I called Charlie to make arrangements to meet,” exclaimed Christy. So, the day after the Green Festival, on Columbus Day October 2009, Christy and Jimmy Fowler, co-workers at Gold Star Honeybees, found their way to the White House and were greeted by a swarm of Secret Service Agents and dogs. After acquiring the correct passes, they met Charlie Brandts. He gave them a tour of the White House, the organic garden, and introduced them to the First Bees. On this, his day off, Charlie — in what Christy described as a calm and low key manner — talked to them about what it was like to work at the White House during the different administrations. As they looked at the beehive in the White House garden, Charlie explained that the hive was placed up on a stand so the bees wouldn’t bother the First Dog, Beau. Also, the hive is securely strapped to its stand to protect it from helicopter winds. “In Maine, we have our own peculiar issues to contend with — long, seriously cold winters and short foraging seasons, and even the occasional bear raid, but Charlie’s bees have to contend with the ‘prop wash’ from the helipad near their apiary,” explained Christy. Christy shared her expertise and set up a top bar hive near the White House garden and explained how this unique type of hive allows bees to live and thrive on their own natural beeswax honeycomb. This natural environment, as opposed to artificial honeycomb, helps control destructive varroa mites, keeps bees healthy, and strengthens their immune systems. After spending about five hours with Charlie Brandts and a delightful day at the White House, Christy and Jimmy said their farewells and started on the long trip home to Maine. In spreading the word about natural, healthy beehives Christy may have helped more honeybees and brought more sweetness into the world than she will ever know. You may find out more about Christy and healthy beekeeping by visting Gold Star Honeybees.

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