“Beekeeper Steve Wall, of Buckin’ Bee Honey here in Santa Fe, was one of my first collaborators. Before I was accepted to sell at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, I was working with Steve. He guided me as I kept my two beehives, and gave me business advice too. Unlike commercial beeswax, Steve’s wax is never bleached, and as he states below, his bees are not exposed to pesticides and other chemicals that would be absorbed right into your skin if they were in my products. Nope, this is the real, natural, golden stuff that smells just like sweet summer. Steve also makes beautiful beeswax candles. If you email him, he might be willing to ship some of his wares to you in the mail.” –Daven
Are you from New Mexico? Did you grow up on a farm?
I’m originally from Oklahoma (studied horticulture at Oklahoma State University) but started keeping bees in Texas. I actually was a city boy, but loved to dig in the dirt. I’ve been gardening since I was a little kid in Tulsa. Beekeeping, to me, just seemed to be a natural extension of horticulture. Both activities stem from a curiosity about the nature of things.
Can you tell us about your bees, your farm, and how you got started?
My bees are called Apis mellifera. They are not native to this continent, and were brought here by Europeans. They are the only species that has colonies of 50,000 or more. Each colony can produce up to 60 lbs. of honey in a year. Other species collect honey and pollinate plants, but no other species has colonies that large or produce that much honey.
I had a landscape company in Dallas and one of my clients had a bee hive in his yard. I asked him about it and he said “You want it?” I said yes, even though I knew next to nothing about bees. I studied like a mad man, joined a club, got a mentor, and expanded my holdings until I had two dozen hives. At that point we decided to move to New Mexico. So, I loaded up the bees and hauled them here. Today I keep around 100 hives in and around Santa Fe.
How do you feel about the declining bee population in the US?
The declining bee population worries me. Not so much for those of us who keep honey bees, but for all the native pollinators that no one is watching. Who knows how many native species are dwindling and dying out due to pesticides, urban sprawl, lack of forage, global warming, etc. To me they are the canary in the coal mine.
Do you sell your honey and beeswax to other New Mexico makers?
I do sell to other crafters, but they are a small fraction of what I sell to Daven. She’s my biggest wholesale client.
Is the honey that’s used in Love+Leche products different from the honey you would eat on your morning toast?
Much of the honey and wax you purchase at the store comes from large commercial operations that use miticides and antibiotics in their hives. These chemicals do end up in the final product. I use neither. So, yes, the wax and honey Daven puts in her products is cleaner than the wax and honey used in others’ products.
How many times a day do you get stung by bees?
I get stung at least once a day. Usually because I get careless. Often, however, I have to work without gloves (while catching queens or grafting larvae to raise new queens). It still hurts, but the reaction is minimal.
How do you use honey and beeswax in your daily life?
Honey is pretty much the only sweetener we use at our house. We don’t burn a lot of candles, but we do use a lot of beeswax lip balm.
If people are interested in purchasing your honey or beeswax, how would they reach you?
95% of my customers simply come to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. The rest come by my house to pick up honey, etc. They call, tell me what they want, and I put it on the front porch. I can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.