123 Farm has always been home to a lot of wild honeybees due to farming organically and growing lavender and other herbs that attract them. The land is ideal for bees to nest in with the numerous hollow tree trunks of our older trees. After years of observation, we decided to start our own sustainable honey bee farm by practicing bee guardianship. This form of beekeeping differs from conventional industrial beekeeping in that the focus is solely on the health of the bees rather than the amount of honey that is harvested.
We use top bar hives, which enable the bees to build their own combs into more natural shapes. Each comb is separated from the other by a bar that can be easily removed. This reduces invasion of the hive while harvesting honey or honeycomb.
In industrial beekeeping, hives are transported in hot trucks to different farms which can be non-organic and many times are monoculture, limiting the types of nectar and pollen the bees can collect. Each variety of plant contains different essential oils which the bees use to keep the hive healthy. In bee guardianship, the bees remain onsite, thus reducing their stress and allowing them to learn about the local ecosystem and which plants are best for protecting the hive.
Another difference from conventional industrial beekeeping is that with bee guardianship, honey is only harvested in the spring and summer and then left for the bees during the winter months, when they have limited access to flowers and nectar. Typically, industrial beekeepers harvest honey in the fall and then often feed the bees sugar water throughout the winter to replace the honey, but sugar water does not have the same nutritional value as honey. When honeycombs are left in the hive, they provide the bees with more nutrition as well as additional thermal mass which helps keep the hive warm during the cold winter months.
Additionally, we planted cover crops for various reasons, one of the reasons specifically for our partnership with Seeds for Bees, a program that encourages the use of cover crops to increase the density, diversity, and duration of bee forage in California orchards, farms, and vineyards, while improving soil health. The seed mixes available through Seeds for Bees are designed to bloom at critical times of the year when natural forage is scarce but managed and native bees are active.
We try to keep everything as natural and stress free for the bees as possible. We generally do not use smoke when entering the hive but rather try to calm the bees down by using essential oils. We are also continually working on planting more varieties of flowering plants so that there is something blooming all year long in order to provide access to nectar throughout the year as much as possible. Bees are amazing creatures and when considering that one out of every three bites of food we eat is because of pollination from a bee, they are well worth being guardians of.
In order to keep our bees sustained, we do not harvest honey from our own bee hives but rather we source honey from an organic farm in Oregon that has a similar commitment to organic and sustainable farming as we do. We infuse the flavors into the honey ourselves to concoct unique blends for you and your family to enjoy at home.