The demand for fresh honey, and for honey bees, are the reasons behind the Culinary Vegetable Institute’s recent move to install 45 new bee boxes on their grounds.
If you’ve ever driven down the lane leading to the Culinary Vegetable Institute, you’ve no doubt seen a multitude of white boxes resembling end tables on legs. Those bee boxes contain multiple screened frames fitted horizontally into them like books on a shelf.
A few weeks ago, the kitchen staff spent an entire day assembling and painting the boxes, preparing them for the shipment of 450,000 bees. The Culinary Vegetable Institute’s chef, Jamie Simpson, has assumed the role of bee keeper. Fortunately, chef Jamie had help handling the monumental job when aspiring bee keeper and friend Anya Montague stopped by to help.
In the Nick of Time
Born in Brighton, England, Montague is traveling the world to spend time learning from bee keepers in other countries, including, for starters, France, Italy, Turkey and Nicaragua. Her journey began when she “just started knocking on doors,” looking for opportunities to learn from bee keepers around the world.
Before pursuing her fascination with honeybees, Montague was a traveling mixologist based in upstate New York, where she met Chef Jamie. An ensuing conversation turned toward their shared interest in bee keeping.
“He said to come here if I ever wanted to,” she said. And so, a couple of days before she was to head to France, she dropped in for a quick hello. Her timing couldn’t have been better.
For protection against stings, Jamie and Anya wore bee keepers’ hats with circular veils completely surrounding their necks, faces and heads. Otherwise, they were protected by little else than jeans and t-shirts.
The team spritzed the transport containers with a spray bottle filled with sugar water before transferring the bees into their new home. “It makes them sticky, so they’re busy cleaning themselves when we put them in,” Jamie said, sprinkling the distracted bees into a box.
(Fun fact: In the event of a sting, Montague said dabbing honey on the spot is the best remedy.)
Feeders containing sugar syrup are also attached outside each of the bee boxes, providing the bees with supplemental nutrition until they can explore the Culinary Vegetable Institute grounds and dine on its 65 varieties of edible flowers.
Fresh Honey: All About Supply and Demand
Chef Jamie said the reason for bringing in someone to manage the expanding bee population was a practical one. “We needed more honey,” he said. “It’s one of the items our customers are really responding well to.”
Besides satisfying the demand for more fresh honey, Chef Jamie said the world’s honey bee population is dwindling dangerously. “The bees were inducted into the endangered species list last year,” he said. “It’s important to do our part.”
He also said having bee hives on premises aligns perfectly with the Culinary Vegetable Institute’s mission to help others “understand where our food comes from and how it’s produced from start to finish.”
It also aligns with the chef’s dedication to utilizing every part of a plant – including, in this case, its pollen. “For us,” he added, “it’s much more than honey.”
Want to learn more about the honey bee join us at our upcoming Lecture Series Dinner