The Buzz: A Monthly Column on Living Well From the Beacon Hill Garden Club Beehives Thrive in the City

Honey is in many cases less than meets the eye.

In 2011, Food Safety News grew suspicious of honey.  Most honey sold in U.S. grocery stores, drug stores and big box stores was labeled as originating in Brazil or another Latin American country.  Really? They tested it and found it had been “ultra-filtered” to eliminate the pollen. With no pollen, the honey’s origin could not be traced. They suspected the “Brazilian” honey actually originated in China. They found much of the honey tainted with pollutants or antibiotics. Some bottles had been diluted with plain old corn or rice syrup. The situation hasn’t improved since.

In addition to fraud, there is also scarcity. Honeybee colonies, important pollinators as well as food producers, have been struggling due to fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and habitat loss.

So what is a honey-lover to do? Bottle your own honey. Some homeowners on Beacon Hill are already doing so on their rooftops, enjoying the harvest themselves, and passing bottles out to friends.

Unsure of how to go about this? Help comes from from biologist Noah Wilson-Rich and The Best Bees Company. He can set up your hive and care for it. He can bottle the honey, making sure it is from your bees and no one else’s. Starting at $1,250 a year for full service, it will be more expensive than the fake store-bought honey but less than a Starbucks Caffe Latte Grande costs if you buy one every day of the year. You could team up with neighbors to share the cost. His company services almost 200 hives in Boston.

Remarkably, Wilson-Rich, a Ph.D. who runs a non-profit laboratory doing research on bees, has learned that city hives are healthier and more productive than suburban and rural ones because of greater plant diversity.  Beacon Hill’s 400 species of bees live longer and make more honey than do their farm and suburban cousins. Beacon Hill honeybees collect pollen from linden trees, roses, water lilies and 63 other plants.

A few tidbits. Honeybees are not native to North America, so some of the best honeybees are imported from Italy. Honey is the one natural food that never spoils. Its pollen helps reduce allergies. The microbes in the honey are good for us, but not for an infant’s digestive system, so honey shouldn’t be given to babies until they are at least one year old.

            Boston Best Bees sets up their hives in the spring so it is not too soon to start planning for your own.

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