Simple Gifts & Gratitude: The Miraculous Honey Bee

My summer breakfast favorite of Greek yogurt, berries and walnuts is tinged with touches of sweet golden autumn --Autumn Morning honey from Barre, MA that is. Dear patient Shoestringers, I bring you the bees at last! This post was supposed to debut last week but the vengeful tech gods intervened: one dead Macbook Pro and a mad scramble to extract my hard drive files and secure a backup PC later, here we are, back buzzing away at a keyboard and ready to focus on something a little less mechanical but doubly miraculous. Honey, that sustaining wonder, and the animals that create it have been everywhere I look lately, and I don't just mean the little workers buzzing away in my black eyed Susan patch. Honey bees, and their struggles and triumphs, keep finding ways to fly into my consciousness these past several weeks and with it I have renewed gratitude for the service they provide our ecosystem, as well as our breakfast tables.

Local yum from Follow the Honey
First, a good friend showed me this documentary about honey bees in Japan. A couple days later I received an invitation from the Meetup group Women in Cambridge to attend an event at the Cambridge, MA shop and apiary Follow the Honey, which was terrific and I have lots more to share with you about it. Then just the other day, in an effort to escape my dastardly computer woes for awhile, I took in the film Mr. Holmes, which just happens to center heavily around Sherlock Holmes's apiary hobby and his respect for and knowledge of honey bees! The bees, me thinks, are talking! And we should all listen to what they have to say.

The product of many bees' efforts!
One thing I think the bees are saying is, "Appreciate us!" and they certainly deserve our praise. One fact I learned during my visit to Follow the Honey is that a single honey bee produces on average only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its short lifetime! Bearing in mind that beekeepers do not leave their hives high and dry at harvest time, that's a lot of bees and a lot of hard work going in to each little jar of honey you see on the shelves. That's definitely what I call food for thought!

But it's not just the honey that matters. Without the pollination activities of bees, the world would be in big trouble, and bees today face more threats than ever, from polluting pesticides to mystery viruses. The world's beekeepers are on the front lines of the bee battle, helping foster healthy hives while at the same time bolstering economic growth and self-sufficiency in communities across the globe through the ethical harvesting and selling of honey. Mary Canning, the proprietor of Follow the Honey is one such bee warrior. Not only is the shop a hub for bee education and events, but Follow the Honey has partnered with the African nation of Tanzania to aid the production and import of local honey products to the US.

The intrepid Mary Canning with business partner David Camara in Tanzania.
Photo: Rodgers Kamala, courtesy of Mary Canning
Meeting Mary at her shop and hearing her speak about the importance of pro-bee initiatives was inspiring. The passion she puts into Follow the Honey and its auxiliary projects is evident in every aspect. She is also an intuitive and engaging public speaker: Mary Canning moves to her words with a dancer's grace and dynamism, her thoughts punctuated by bold yet fluid gestures. When addressing Women in Cambridge that night, she wore a rippling red sundress that twirled as she moved and the effect recalled a wild crimson sunflower capering on the wind. It would be an easy linguistic out to dub Mary the "Queen Bee" of Follow the Honey, but I think a more apt metaphor is that she serves as the vibrant wildflower that draws the bees and bee lovers to her. (This amateur shutterbug tried her best to capture Mary in action but the somewhat fuzzy results failed to do her justice!)

In addition to selling honey on tap from Louisiana and Mexico, Follow the Honey has bees producing the sweet stuff much closer to home (as evidenced by my delish breakfast). They even have a hive on view at the Cambridge shop patio and it was fascinating to see the bees busy at work. The hive in residence is a warre hive, a style of hive that doesn't employ comb templates and thus gives the bees freedom to strut their architectural stuff:

A warre hive - Follow the Honey, Cambridge, MA
One of the best parts of the evening, however, had to be the honey tasting! The lovely and inviting honey bar provides a chance for shoppers to sample the various "vintages" and the staff are knowledgable and engaging. And FYI, for those of you admiring the charming decor pictured below, Mary's daughter Caneen is the creative hand behind much of Follow the Honey's cozy look and web graphics/logo.

Ivy of Follow the Honey tends the honey-tasting bar.
Photo: Louise Claire Johnson, courtesy of Mary Canning

Trying out several marketedly different types of honey was a fascinating sensory experience, so much so that I think I'll have to explore the topic in greater depth for a future post. Til then, I will simply say WOW! There is so much more to honey than just "sweet". Speaking of sweet, Follow the Honey also carries scads of wonderful bee-related products. I especially love that it carries a lot of local New England brands, like this terrific skin balm from Rhode Island's C'est La Bee:

Look bee-autiful with natural skincare products like C'est La Bee's Mild Lemon Balm.
Ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, bees wax, almond oil, lemon oil, wheat germ oil, soy bean oil, aloe, vitamin e, rosemary leaf oil.

The Mild Lemon balm is perfect medicine for dry lips & elbows!
The Mild Lemon is truly mild, which I like very much being a bit scent sensitive. I also got the wonderful papya-scented balm as a gift for my mother... and I will have to go back to get some more for me! The only thing I don't like about this product is the label: the black writing smears off easily. That won't deter me from getting it again but if you see this post, C'est La Bee, tweak the labels!

In summation, Follow the Honey is darling and bees are divine! And if you want to learn more about bees, bee-keeping, bee-welfare, etc. buzz on over to Follow the Honey August 22, 2015 for a special National Honey Bee Day event!

Oh, and one more thing, you definitely could say I've had bees on the brain, here's a little crafty something I got to working on when my Mac died last week:

 For pics of my latest projects & more follow Sally on Instagram: @shoestringsally
Bee creative, Shoestringers!


  1. Anonymous10/21/2015

    We installed a beehive in our backyard this year. I love to watch them.

    1. Yay! Thanks for helping cultivate & maintain a healthy ecosystem. Best of luck to you and your bees. :)


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