Nestled in the valley in the corners of Dane, Green, Iowa, and Lafayette counties in Wisconsin is a small town called Blanchardville. People travel to Blanchardville to enjoy monarch butterfly watching, bluebird watching, and its lush prairies. Out of this little town—and surrounded by prairie enthusiasts—comes Beeville Honey, a honey business run by Stacey McCarthy, WPS Senior Program Integrity Analyst, and her husband, Michael.
Together, on their farmette, they make honey and beeswax products that are sold at local farmers markets and art fairs. Michael manages about 75–100 beehives while Stacey makes the beeswax products and helps with the marketing of Beeville Honey.
The bees enjoy the nectar of beautiful prairies and wildflowers for up to five miles in all directions. And although they don't pay for the organic certification, they use all organic practices. Their honey is as pure and as raw as it can get, Stacey said.
Making one pint of honey typically takes 5,000 bees traveling 200,000 miles and collecting nectar from 3-5 million flowers!
"Our bees are really busy," Michael said. "From sunrise to sunset, the bees are active and flying. They are going out for moisture or nectar. They have been flying out of their hives like lightning or a volcano. It will be 110 degrees inside my bee suit, but honey flows when it's hot."
Michael explained that bees are hardworking, 90% are female, and always working toward the survival of the beehive. It takes about 21 days for a bee to become full-grown. The queen's job is to lay eggs, and the male bees, or drones, mate with the queen. Worker bees, which are female, are responsible for everything else: gathering nectar, guarding the hive and honey, caring for the queen and larvae, keeping the hive clean, and producing honey.
"It's fun to wake up and dance with nature," he continued. Michael predicts he has been stung over 3,500 times! Stacey said as long as her hair is up (so they don't get trapped) and she leaves them alone, they will leave her alone.
Stacey explained where they sell their honey and beeswax products.
"We now do three local markets, but we used to be at the VA famers market and at the Madison Eastside market. I remember loading my car with honey, going to work at the WPS office, and jetting off for the evening farmers market after work. Those were long days. The kids grew up helping; I feel it helped instill a good work ethic."
In her product line, Stacey makes lip balms, lotion bars, and beeswax wraps that replace products like saran wrap or Press'n Seal. "We tried a bunch of different recipes until we had a nice one."
Michael chimed in that he was skeptical of the beeswax wraps, but they are a hit!
Customers rave about the lotion bar, that it was a “miracle" for their dry skin. One customer gushed that a spoonful of the honey each day helped decrease the need for allergy medication, while others, overall, say it's delicious for dressings, marinates, or hot butter toast.
"Not to mention a healthy option for a sugar substitute," Stacey said, speaking like a true nurse.
One of the things that Stacey and her husband said contributes to the flavor and its popularity is that they let their honey accumulate and collect the flavors all season long.
"You can harvest your honey often through the year, or you can let it accumulate and collect it at the end of the season," she explained. "That's also why during different seasons your honey can be different colors and flavors depending on the nectar the bees gather. Later in the season, you get darker, more maple or molasses honey." She added, "The nice thing about honey is it doesn't go bad the way fresh produce does, so right away in the spring, you can sell last fall's honey."
A fun fact that Michael shared is that the oldest honey found was nearly 6,000 years old. It was found in a ceramic jar in a tomb in the country of Georgia.
One year they had an 85% loss and had to rebuy their hives again. Stacey admitted it's more of a hobby as most of their profit goes back to the upkeep of their hives and products.
"Like all farming, every year is rolling the dice," Michael said.
But through the obstacles, you can tell they are passionate about what they create.
"We love to give stuff away; it's really special to give gifts that we make, and we know people love to receive."
And they have found friends and share best practices with an entire community filled with bee lovers.
Stacey and Michael are working on an addition to their house; this new addition will feature a kitchen in the basement for their honey-making and will house Stacey's new WPS remote office!
The question had to be asked: are there any benefits to “No Mow May"?
"Oh yes, it really helps," Michael replied. "Bees and pollinating are vital to our food source. When you think about how 30–40% of the food in grocery stores would not exist without bees, you can see how important they are. Right away in April, there are many flowering food trees and blossoms. A No Mow May helps them keep going with dandelions and clovers."
If you want to check out more information on the McCarthy's bees, you can view their Facebook page on your personal device: @ilovebeevillehoney