When you think about a queen, images of crowns and castles from movies and books probably come to mind. And yes, there are some similarities to the honeybee queen and our historical and fairytale queens. She is a powerful ruler with thousands of tireless workers who rely on her to keep the colony strong and productive. She is noticeably larger with a long slender body and wings that rest majestically upon her back. A dedicated group of females attend to her every need: feeding, cleaning, and creating a tight circle around her wherever she goes. The pheromone she emits is like a magical, hypnotic potion that drives the bees in her colony to work until they literally drop dead. After just one mating flight, she begins laying at 30-second intervals, averaging 1500 eggs a day. And, just like the brave queen in the stone castle, she must be ready to fight to the death when new queens emerge to take over her throne. One notable difference is that she’s a ‘working’ queen; not one to be found lounging in the garden with her court, sipping fine wine and nibbling on exotic cheeses. Actually, she’s extraordinary.
Honoring her majesty, Paul and Stephanie Camello operate their thriving Queen Bee Honey business in Pembroke. Paul began his love of all things bees about 12 years ago when, after struggling to find raw, local honey; he decided to make his own. Not long after, he met Stephanie, and a honey farm soon followed. Bees are foragers and go where the pollen is; and many homeowners use pesticides and herbicides on their lawns and gardens that are harmful to honey bees and other beneficial insects. So Paul and Stephanie are strategic and thoughtful about hive placement and do their best to protect their 36 fair queens and colonies by placing hives around organic farms and natural surroundings.
Paul and Stephanie each bring unique talents to their beekeeping venture. Before being stung by the beekeeping bug, Paul was a professional photographer. While Paul is the leading force in keeping a close eye on their bees, product inventories, promotions, and paperwork, Stephanie tackles research and development, creating health and beauty products using beeswax and honey. Stephanie, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, also works with beeswax to create encaustic works of fine art.
As bees forage for food, visiting flower after flower, they transfer pollen to the stigma of a flower, assisting with the fertilization process of the plant, which then produces edible fruit. We’ve come to rely heavily on these busy foragers for our food supply, especially for tree fruit like peaches, plums, and apples, and even for some fall specialties: onions, pumpkins, and cranberries. Bees have been dying off in great numbers, putting these edible delicacies at risk. But thanks to beekeepers like the Camello’s, concerned citizens, and social media, the urgent plea for help is beginning to be heard. Our local beekeepers play a valuable role in nurturing and raising healthy bees, and educating their community on ways to help the cause.
For those who want to help, Stephanie is adamant about eliminating the use of toxic commercial herbicides to kill weeds. There are plenty of natural alternatives, including herbicidal soap or white vinegar, which are safer for you and the beneficial insects we need in our yards. If you must spray trees, do so in the evening when bees have returned to their hives after foraging. Plant wildflower meadows and a variety of plants that flower in spring, summer, and fall. This helps provide a healthy, consistent nectar flow and pollen (food) for the hard working pollinators. Lastly, support your local beekeeper artisan; that too will help keep healthy colonies of bees buzzing and serving their queen!
Speaking of beekeeping ‘artisans’, this phrase takes on a whole new meaning at Queen Bee Honey. Queen Bee Honey is nestled in a beautiful, idyllic country setting on Rocky Run Farm in Pembroke. White, green, and yellow beehives are scattered throughout the picturesque property. The store is open and airy with well-stocked shelves offering honey, and health and beauty products. Works of art by both Stephanie and Paul pop with color along the shop walls. Throughout Queen Bee headquarters, an ample space where Stephanie & Paul once lived, it is apparent that art is inspired, made, and admired here.
Earlier while poking around the store, I read a sign about encaustic wax and the conversation shifted to encaustic art. The energy in the room became charged and Stephanie was on her feet, moving. She invited me to the second level of the store to her studio and absorbing some of her energy buzz, I didn’t know what to expect! Maybe paintings of bees and flowers? To my delight her art loft stood open before me and there is no question; art is her passion. Her newest creations are mainly made of beeswax; encaustic art. Recently, Stephanie began re-exploring this medium she had tinkered with earlier in her career. She describes her recent discoveries and experiences with encaustic art as ‘taking off like wildfire’, igniting something inside her, and opening her mind to exciting and creative new ways of working with the wax.
The encaustic technique is an ancient art form made from layers of heated beeswax, small amounts of tree resin, and a clay or crayon type of paint. The paint, wax and resin are melted and mixed and then brushed onto a board or base of choice. The artist molds and layers the colored beeswax to the desired shapes. Each layer must be heated by a hand-held torch before and after it is laid down to seal it to the under-layer. The look is modern and can take on the appearance and beauty of glazed pottery. Some of Stephanie’s forms are rolled and gathered, like a magically colorful book of pages and scrolls brought to life through nature. She demonstrates how to buff out a ‘bloom’, the dull sheen of wax that when polished, takes on a shine that begs to be touched.
Driving away from the farm, I felt like I witnessed something very special and felt honored to live among amazing local ‘artisans’ willing to share their craft. Isn’t that feeling contagious? Or maybe the queen’s pheromones are stronger than we think? Stephanie’s encaustic works will be exhibited June of 2016 at The Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown, or you can have one of your own. Stephanie and Paul’s encaustic wax paintings with photographic transfers are for sale at the farm shop. To see and learn more about Stephanie’s work, visit her website at www.StephanieRobertsCamello.com/encaustic.
Queen Bee products include honey, soap, candles, lotions, and balms. They make their own beautifully packaged gift boxes too! You can find Queen Bee products at Marshfield Hills General Store, 165 Prospect Street, Marshfield and at their farm store open on Tuesdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Queen Bee Farm Store
201 Dwelley Street
Pembroke, MA 02359
Michelle Berry and her family caught the beekeeping buzz a few years ago and are now knee-deep in the fascinating world of bees.