The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








From Honey to Mead

Mead isn’t just something Robin Hood and his Merry Men drank. Local meaderies are alive and well in New Hampshire, and the beverage is gaining more popularity especially among the craft brewing industry. 
Mead is made from a mixture of water and honey. A wine yeast is added, which begins fermentation, followed by an aging process.
Moonlight Meadery of Londonderry is putting New Hampshire on the map, and is recognized world-wide among mead makers. Founder and head mead maker Michael Fairbrother started homebrewing beer in 1995, when he tried a cyser (a mead made with honey and apple) that would ultimately change his world.
“It just tasted amazing to me,” Fairbrother said.
After making beer and mead as a hobby and winning awards for his mead, Fairbrother quit his job as a software engineer and started brewing for good. He opened Moonlight Meadery in 2010, and now it’s one of the largest craft meaderies in the world, Fairbrother said. Moonlight Meadery offers 30 varieties and recently won two gold medals and a silver medal at the 2014 Mazer Cup International Mead Competition.
Located in Center Ossipee, Sap House Meadery distributes locally brewed mead throughout the Granite State. Co-owner and mead maker Ash Fischbein said that currently, Sap House Meadery sources its honey from about six apiaries in New Hampshire, and one apiary in Vermont.
“The key to the honey that we use is that it’s all from family-owned, locally owned farms or apiaries,” he said. “For me personally, when you travel around the world and try local mead, it’s nice to taste the regional flavors.”
Since mead is made from honey, the flavors from where the bees pollinated allow the mead to share similar flavors. Fischbein said that he tastes notes of alfalfa, goldenrod, clover and even cidery notes in the mead that all come from the New Hampshire wildflower honey. By supporting local meaderies, Fischbein said, you’re also supporting local honey and local farms. “Vote with your fork,” he said. 
Baking with liquid gold
Mike Patinsky grew up with his mother’s baklava (a Greek pastry made with nuts, phyllo and honey or syrup), and, as a kid, he didn’t care too much for the sweet. When he decided to try his own hand at the family recipe, Patinsky replaced the sweet syrup in his mother’s recipe with local honey.
The result became Mike’s Greek Gold. Patinsky makes small batches of baklava with fresh local honey from a local apiary owner, Paul Miller.
“Without his honey, I don’t believe Mike’s Greek Gold would have taken off like it did,” Patinsky said. “I did try it with a commercial honey, and it didn’t do anything for me.”
Patinsky frequents summer farmers markets, like the Peterborough Farmers Market and the Bedford Farmers Market, where he gets feedback from passersby who taste baklava samples. Many of the market-goers remark that they can tell natural honey is used, he said. Now, Patinsky has started to keep bees of his own. He started last summer but faced a challenging fall and winter — one hive swarmed and the other didn’t make it through the cold. But despite these challenges, he’s ready for another try this year.
“It’s so exciting to do, I don’t know how to describe it. There’s nothing like holding a frame in your hands and seeing these guys work,” Patinsky said. “If anyone has an interest in raising bees, they should at least try it.” 
Where's your local bee keepers club?
  • New Hampshire Beekeepers Association
• Capital Area Beekeepers Association
Meets at 7 p.m. on the second Friday of each month at South Congregational Church, 27 Pleasant St., Concord. Bee School held in February. Visit
• Merrimack Valley Beekeepers
Meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, August through May, at the Hudson Recreation Building, Oakwood Street, Hudson. Bee School held in March. Visit
• Kearsage Beekeepers Association
Meets six times a year at various locations. Visit
• Pawtuckaway Beekeepers Club
Meets at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at the Masonic Lodge, 12 South Road, Candia. Visit
• Seacoast Beekeepers Association
Meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at Jeremiah Smith Grange Hall in Lee. Visit
• Monadnock Beekeepers Association
Meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month. Visit
• Pemi-Baker Beekeepers Association
Meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Town Clerk’s Office Community Room, 1062 River Road, Bridgewater. Bee School starts in January in Ashland. Visit
From the hive to the Vatican
Martin Marklin started making candles from beeswax 30 years ago in his parents’ basement. Now, Marklin Candle in Contoocook is one of just seven companies in the United States that produce beeswax liturgical candles used for worship in churches.
Marklin took up the craft after observing intricately designed candles in his church as an altar boy. The candles are made from beeswax, then artists carve designs into the candles. Wax is then melted and colored to fit into the carved recess to create designs.
In a good season, bees can produce 80 to 100 pounds of honey, but in the same season they produce only 1 to 1½ pounds of beeswax, Marklin said. The only bee that makes the wax is the worker bee, and she only does that for eight days of her life.
“Beeswax is an organic product, and is renewable and offers much better performance as a burning substance,” Marklin said. “Most candle consumers are used to a paraffin base, which is a petroleum base.”
Many churches rely on beeswax candles for seasonal celebrations like Easter and Advent. Marklin Candle even recycles the beeswax when churches send back the ends of the candles after they’ve been burnt out.
About five years ago, Marklin started to keep bees of his own for his family’s gardens and as a hobby to connect with nature. In January, he became the president of the Kearsarge Beekeepers Association as well as the New Hampshire Director of the Eastern Apicultural Society.
“Its [EAS’s] mission is to do research and provide information to beekeepers,” Marklin said. “[Beekeeping] is intimidating at first, and it’s overwhelming the amount of information you need to take care of them. There’s this heightened sensitivity to nature, preserving nature and becoming stewards of this creation. It’s also interconnected, and I think people are beginning to see this as one piece of the puzzle. And it’s fun.”
Help save the bees!
Honey bees will fly up to 5 miles from the hive to forage from plantlife. Planting bee-friendly flowers and crops in open spaces, in your garden, in local parks and vacant spaces will help save the bees. Local native plants are best, and there should also be a diversity of plants flowering all season long in an area to help give bees plenty to pollinate from. Make sure that no pesticides or fungicides were used to raise plants or seeds. Chemicals found even within the seed will spread to the pollen when the plant is in bloom. Plant the following bee-friendly plants:
• Maple trees
• Fruit trees like plum, pear or apple
• Milkweed
• Alfalfa
• Clover
• Goldenrod
• Sunflower
• Hawthorn
• Lavender
• Poppy
• Hyssop
• Fennel
• Herbs like mints, rosemary and sage
• Daffodil
• Foxglove
• Forget-me-not
• Hollyhock

Bee Friends
How to keep a hive and reap the sweet rewards


 It might sound like a daunting hobby to some, but for many Granite Staters, keeping a hive and collecting honey is the bee’s knees.

“There is a huge amount of interest,” said Barbara Lawler, president of the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association. “One of the reasons I think we’re seeing that ... is that people want to have control over their food. They want to know that it’s healthier and better for them. People will do it for the honey production, and there are still others who will do it for the pollination of their own backyard garden.”
More beekeepers mean more hives, more hives mean more pollination and more pollination means more honey. That’s good news for the local food movement, as well as for New Hampshire agriculture. Eighty-two percent of the food we eat requires pollination, which includes everything from local farms and apple orchards to your own backyard garden.
Martin Marklin agrees that the local food movement is helping beekeeping culture grow in the Granite State. Marklin is the founder of Marklin Candle, which produces liturgical candles for churches (including the Pope himself) from beeswax, but he’s also a beekeeper himself. He’s seen the uptick of beekeeping interest over the last few years, as well as the increased popularity of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, farm-to-table restaurants and farmers markets. 
“I think it’s probably because so much attention in the last few years has been given to beekeeping by the press, mainly the concern about the plight of the bee and this thing called colony collapse,” Marklin said. “It’s very much in people’s consciousness now.”
While beekeeping grows in popularity, local businesses are benefiting, too. While some beekeepers sell their own honey, others are marketing new products through local stores. New Hampshire honey is being used by business-savvy bakers to make sweets and brewers to make mead as well, and there are plenty of other products, like beeswax, lotions, soaps and candles that all started with a local hive.
The sweet stuff
No two honeys are created equal, and that’s especially true for New Hampshire-made honey.
The honey bees pollinate a variety of local plants, like alfalfa, clover, maple, wildflowers and apple blossoms. The result makes for a unique local honey.
The flavor, color and consistency of a honey all depends on what the bees have been pollinating and even what’s in bloom.
“[Wildflower honey] can range from being very light in color and very light in flavor to being very dark in color and stronger in flavor,” Lawler said.
In New Hampshire, honey is labeled as “wildflower honey,” because of the variety of plants the bees are pollinating. If a beekeeper knows what’s in bloom, she can plan accordingly to harvest the honey (for example, hints of dandelion will have more bitter notes when dandelions are in bloom). Bees travel in a 2- to 5-mile radius to forage, which means whatever plant life is found within that distance might end up lending flavor notes to the honey.
In some areas, like Florida, beekeepers can label their honey as “orange blossom honey,” because they know that the bees are exclusively pollinating from the orange groves. But up in New Hampshire, it’s trickier to come by varietal honey. 
Marklin hopes to soon offer a type of “varietal” honey at Marklin Candle in Contoocook. There’s already a marketplace area at Marklin Candle, but Marklin said he’s planning for some buzz-worthy additions this fall, including a tea house worthy of the bees. Plans for the tea house include big-screen TVs with a live feed to the hive.
“It’s going to be radical,” he said. “It’s going to be a sports bar for beekeepers, in a sense.”
At the tea house, Marklin hopes to offer local blends of honeys, like a Dunbarton honey, a Warner honey, a Hopkinton blend and a Canterbury blend, to name a few. Each of the honeys will have a flavor based on what is grown in the areas. For example, Marklin said the West Hopkinton blend will have strong notes of buckwheat, while forest and apple orchards will lend to the Dunbarton blend.
In theory, that’s the closest New Hampshire will get to varietal honey. Since no honey is created equal, it makes the Granite State product unique.
To harvest the honey, beekeepers run the extracted honey through a strainer, which removes any bee parts or wax. Honey isn’t filtered, though, as that will take out natural and beneficial components like the pollen.
The honey isn’t just for harvesting — it’s part of the food supply for the bees, too. Beekeepers learn how to manage their hives so the bees have enough honey for themselves, which is also their food supply during the cold winter months.
Very, very busy bees
When you lift the lid off a modern hive, there are frames stacked within the box and filled with bees working away. While forager bees travel out to bring nectar and pollen back to the hive, the queen and worker bees are busy within. So what are they up to?
The lifespan of a bee is only four to six weeks, and within that amount of time a honey bee will produce only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. So to help manage her workforce, the queen lays eggs to create more bees for the hive (she can be identified as the honey bee with a longer body). 
New beekeepers start with a package of bees in the spring, which contains about 10,000 to 11,000 bees. As the bees collect their food and the queen starts to lay eggs, the number multiplies throughout the spring and early summer months.
The average number of bees in one hive in summertime can be anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 bees, if managed well.
“They’ll start to reduce in number again as we get towards fall,” Lawler said.
Each hive, or colony, contains a queen, workers and drones, the male bee. Most beginners start off with just one or two colonies, but avid beekeepers will typically have more than that.
“I think [the number] varies,” Lawler said. “On average, the backyard beekeeper has six or less hives, with most having around two.”
While some beekeepers manage hives for the benefits of pollinating a garden, for environmental reasons or as a hobby, honey is generally the big draw.
“Everyone wants honey. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want honey,” Lawler said. “Personally, we try to get just about everything from the hive.”
A hive will produce a variety of products; there’s also beeswax, pollen, the honeycomb itself, bee venom and propolis — a sticky, resin-like substance found inside the hive that can be used for a number of products or medicinal purposes, like treating mouth sores.
Lawler and her husband collect the pollen, which can be given back to the bees, but it’s edible too. They also collect the propolis.
“The hive is a whole medicine cabinet,” Lawler said. 
Even honey can be used as an antibacterial ointment, since it’s naturally antiviral and antifungal.
The beeswax and the honey are used to make products like lip balm, hand creams and candles. Lawler said that products like these as well as jars of honey make for great gifts, and can also be sold road-side or in mom and pop shops.
So you want to be a beekeeper
Beekeepers are like chefs. While every chef will know how to, say, make spaghetti sauce or plate a grilled sirloin, they also have their own recipes. Similarly, each beekeeper has her own philosophies. There are standards to beekeeping, but if you enter the world of apiaries, you’ll find that everyone keeps bees a little differently. 
That’s why it’s crucial to join your local beekeeping club, Lawler said. The clubs provide a wealth of information as well as a community of resources.
Currently, there are seven beekeeping clubs in New Hampshire, and each offers regular meetings for beekeepers to trade notes and discuss trends. There are also annual Bee School programs, hosted by each of the regional clubs, that run through the basics of beekeeping.
“My husband and I have been keeping bees for about nine years. We started by [attending] bee school and learning about it,” Lawler said. 
Lawler and her husband were both involved in the Pawtuckaway and Capital Area Beekeepers Associations. This is her second year serving as president of the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association.
“We hold three meetings a year where we bring in speakers from all over the country,” she said. “We try to make sure to support the beekeepers in the state-supported local clubs, share information, and share resources. And we do whatever we can to positively impact legislation.”
For example, it used to be that you couldn’t keep bees in the City of Concord. It was the only place in the state that didn’t allow backyard beekeeping. Legislation was passed to change that about two years ago, and that’s the type of legislation that the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association will get involved with.
Allen Lindahl, the owner of Hillside Apiaries and Beekeeping Supplies in Merrimack, is a member of the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, and he’s also vice president of the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association. Like Lawler, Lindahl has noticed a significant uptick in people interested in beekeeping.
“We had about 80 new students this year that signed up for the bee school,” he said. “Basically, the clubs are more for education than anything else. We teach people how to keep bees and how to keep them alive. And even at the monthly meetings that we run, there’s always bee talk. … We try to bring something pertinent about what’s going on at that time of year that the beekeeper needs to be doing.”
Bee School meets for five weeks in March at the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, Lindahl said. During that time, students learn about the biology of the bee, how to distinguish the queen from the workers and the drones, and to get a better idea of how things work in the hive. By the time new beekeepers “graduate” from bee school, they’re ready to start their hive for the season.
“A lot of people come back [to bee school] for a refresher,” Lindahl said. “The first year it can be overwhelming for people. There’s a lot of information.”
Among the new beekeepers, Lindahl has noticed many are becoming backyard beekeepers to become more self-sustaining.
“People just like the idea of self-sustainability, and maybe you’re going to get a little bit of honey out of that as a bonus,” Lindahl said. “And you learn a little bit about nature, because you’re learning what the bees are doing and how they’re doing it. … There was a question asked in the bee school about how many people are just keeping bees not for honey, but just to try to help the environment. There were several hands that went up, which is fantastic to hear.”
New beekeepers should also be warned; beekeeping can become addicting, therapeutic and a life-long love.
Lawler describes her experience as “zen beekeeping.” 
“There’s so much I enjoy. For me, what I enjoy most is I have to slow down. There’s not a lot of multitasking — they let you know when you’re multitasking,” Lawler said. “They are fascinating, the communication system they have, the whole structure they have for how they work together to thrive and survive. So, to just be out there with the bees working with them, when it’s nice and quiet on a summer day, there’s just nothing better.”
Once Lindahl started, he couldn’t stop. It all started when he needed to pollinate his blueberries. He rented a hive for $40, and decided to start keeping bees himself (and avoid costly rentals).
“A lot of people will start with one or two the first year, and then really get into it and want to expand and put more hives in,” he said. “I started with one colony at the beginning of the summer 21 years ago and before the year was over I had three colonies. … Now I’m over 60 [colonies].”
His 60-plus colonies that make up Hillside Apiaries now visit local orchards in the Granite State to help pollinate.
“There’s a lot to learn and we’re always learning,” Lindahl said. “No matter how many years you’re keeping bees, there’s always something new you can pick up and learn.”
Lindahl’s beekeeping tips for new and seasoned apiarists? Always wear a veil for protection, be gentle, and be patient.
What’s killing the bees?
Although there’s an increase in local beekeepers and interest in backyard hives, there’s still a global problem. Over the past 50 years, the bees have been dying and disappearing altogether.
“A lot of it I think can be attributed to the neonicotinoid chemicals,” Lindahl said. “That’s one of the major reasons for the downfall of the honey bee. … The honey bee is very susceptible to these systemic chemicals. They grow up through the plant and end up coming out into the pollen and the bees are bringing them back to the hive and feeding them to the developing larva. It’s killing a lot of the bees and screwing up their neurological systems.”
If affected by neonicotinoid chemicals, bees will become lethargic and sick and won’t bring nectar back to the hive, Lindahl said. Imagine trying to go to work with the flu. Lindahl described the chemicals effects on the honey bee’s neurological systems as a malfunctioning GPS. When a bee leaves the hive it flies in reference to the sun, he said.
“They have to fly a certain distance to be able to get to the crop that they want and when they come back, because their neurological system is screwed up — it’s almost like they have a GPS that’s guiding them back — this is off, and if it’s off by five degrees, they’re not going to be able to find their way home,” Lindahl said. “It’s [essential] to the colony that the bees make it back so they can bring this food back to the colony so they can keep the colony going. Bees are social insects. They need to work together to be able to make the colony succeed.”
Neonicotinoid chemicals, often used in insecticides, will remain in the soil for 10 years, Lindahl said. While this is the second year the European Union has banned the use of neonicotinoids, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has tabled the topic for another four years. 
“We can’t wait that long,” Lindahl said.
Chemicals like pesticides, fungicides and insecticides are all harming the bees. Lawler said farmers and gardeners should be more aware when spraying, to not spray as much and to pay attention to the types of fertilizers and seeds used. 
“Anything that is more natural is better,” she said. “When we lose bees or any pollinator … certain flowers will only be pollinated by certain kinds of insects … we lose that plant. So everything is interconnected.”
Bees are also being shipped to help pollinate large monoculture crops around the country (the biggest and most common example is of almond trees in California, which are only in bloom for two weeks). Like humans, bees should have a balanced diet from a variety of plants, Lawler said. So when bees are pollinating in large monoculture farms (not to mention the stress of being shipped around the country), it weakens the bees. On top of that, many of these farms are also using chemical sprays.
“The numbers of colonies that are out there for pollination this year was 1.25 million or somewhere thereabouts, and something like 450,000 colonies were killed because of spraying,” Lindahl said.  “Let’s say [a beekeeper] had 10,000 colonies out on the almonds, and he lost 5,000 colonies. Well, that’s a 50-percent loss, but where were those 5,000 colonies going after almonds? They were going into other crops like apples and cranberries and pumpkins and other crops later in the season, and they were going place to place. Now, you lose all those colonies, and what are all these farmers going to do now that are down the chain? They don’t have those colonies to be able to pollinate their crops.”
In New Hampshire, there is a little bit of relief since there is less monoculture farming.
“We’re better from that standpoint. The downside that we have is that our season is so short,” Lawler said. “We have a lot of backyard neighborhoods in New Hampshire, and not a lot of really large commercial farms. So, my sense is that the bees do have a little better access than they might in some other areas.”
The good news is that more people are becoming aware of the problems facing bees (and as a result, our agriculture system and food sources). There are a few ways to help. One is to plant more bee-friendly plants with diverse blooming periods (so bees can pollinate all season long). Know what you’re buying and refrain from the use of chemicals. Pay attention to where you buy seeds, fertilizer and garden life — many of the big box stores use neonicotinoids in the soil to grow their plants and flowers, Lindahl said.
“As far as what we can do, anything that we can possibly do to support our town and our garden clubs and our cities as far as our garden planting [helps],” Lawler said. 
As seen in the May 8th issue of the Hippo.

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