Emily Brown, Arizona's "Queen Bee," Talks Honey

Come over here, honey, and let's get to know each other.

Whether you like the sticky stuff in your tea, yogurt, or on a peanut butter sandwich, you should appreciate where it comes from. For some insight, we turned to Emily Brown, a.k.a. "AZ Queen Bee."

She makes honey and honey products, and she also provides bee-removal services. Brown has kept bees for more than 20 years in various parts of the county -- and she really knows her stuff.

Brown's a member of the American Beekeeping Federation and the resident bee keeper at the Boulders Resort, and she often makes presentations about beekeeping to school groups.

So, is there going to be a sudden surge in beekeeping, akin to the backyard chicken craze? That's a definite maybe.

See also: - Downtown Phoenix's GROWop Boutique and Phoenix Style Collective Host Honey Harvest - Bees Eat M&Ms, Make Multi-Colored Honey

Chow Bella: What's one thing about bees that the public may not know about or realize?

Emily Brown: Many people are completely unaware of how important honey bees are to our environment and our food supply. Without honey bee pollination, over a third of our food supply would cease to exist. Honey bees live four to six weeks in the summer time and produce just one drop of honey.

CB: We've been hearing the honey bees are disapearing. Is this true?

EB: Honey bees have been greatly affected by a multitude of diseases and parasites over the years. They have also endured numerous years of widespread pesticide usage on the plants they forage on for nectar and pollen. Beekeepers across the country are currently experiencing one of the greatest losses of honey bee colonies ever documented. Research continues on the causes of these losses.

CB: How often do you harvest honey? How do you know the honey is "ready"?

EB: Honey can be harvested whenever the honeycomb has been "capped" by the bees. Capped honeycomb means the water has evaporated from the cells and the thickened honey is ready for extraction. Honey can be extracted using the centrifugal force of an extractor, or the honeycomb can be crushed and strained. September is considered National Honey month, as that is when most honey is extracted. In Arizona, most beekeepers can extract honey in the spring, after the citrus, wildflower, and mesquite bloom, and then again in the fall.

CB: What products do you make from the honey?

EB: I currently sell "desert bloom" honey, and make honey lavender lotion bars and mint lip balms made from the beeswax. Hot melted wax is also poured into candle molds to form old-fashioned tapered candle sticks and other assorted skeps and holiday decorations. Cinnamon honey is a family favorite and will soon be available for purchase.

CB: We've heard that honey never really "goes bad" is this true?

EB: Honey is an amazing product in that it truly never expires. Honey has natural antibacterial properties and will "crystallize" or turn into a hardened sugar form over time, but if heated slowly it will go right back into the liquid state. Honey is also a natural healing agent to use on wounds and burns.

CB: What are the more popular honey types made in Arizona? What are the more uncommon honey types make in Arizona?

EB: Some unique and popular types of honey in Arizona are those that cannot be produced in other states such as "Mesquite," "Desert Bloom or Desert Blossom or Desert Wildflower," "Catclaw," and "Palo Verde." Citrus honey is also produced in Arizona but is common in other states as well. There are over 300 different types of honey in the United States.

CB: How often do you get stung?

EB: I am very careful when I am beekeeping, but I still get stung a few times a week.

CB: Is it safe to eat unfiltered/raw honey?

EB: Raw, unfiltered, unprocessed honey should not be fed to infants under the age of 1 year old, as the honey could contain botulism spores and lead to sickness.

CB: What is the question you get asked the most often?

EB: I always get asked how in the world I got into beekeeping. I think it's because people associate beekeeping with retired men and not young women. My passion for beekeeping at an early age was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Note: Brown wore a beekeeping mask in her picture; this woman is serious about bees.

CB: What is the most unusual question you've received about beekeeping and honey?

EB: Do honey bees sleep? And, yes, they do sleep! It may be in short tiny bursts of rest, but they do, indeed, enter into a form of sleep.

CB: What is your favorite way to enjoy honey?

EB: I eat honey on just about everything, but one of my favorites is a warm toasted bagel with cream cheese and topped with lots of honey and pollen.

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