Did you know that the neighborhood of Arcadia has a flavor? According to local beekeeper, Katie Zeman, it tastes like citrus, pomegranates and figs. The trees and flowers in your own yard may contribute to those delicious flavors. If you’ve noticed bees zipping around your place, gathering nectar, they may well have been on their way to one of Zeman’s three hives, nestled in the backyard of her parents’ Arcadia home.
Beekeeping has generally been passed down through the generations of Zeman’s family. She learned about the craft from her father, who learned about it from his uncle, a monk who was as devoted to the care and cultivation of bees as he was to his faith. Beekeeping was more of a hobby than a job for her father, and as the years went by and he got busier, it fell by the wayside. Then about three years ago he decided he wanted to take it up again.
“I was super interested,” Zeman said. “I’d always loved hearing about it, but he’d never involved us as children, so I told him I’d do it with him!”
As things have evolved, it has now mostly become Zeman’s project, and she couldn’t be happier about that. Also excited about it are Zeman’s friends and family, who are the lucky recipients of the liquid gold she harvests.
“Besides giving honey away, I’ll take the wax and make different salves and different healing things, or lip balm,” said Zeman. “Whenever my kids are sick or have a sore throat I give them honey.”
Zeman says when she first got into beekeeping she didn’t know many other beekeepers or how to connect with them, but was fortunate to discover an online group called Arizona Backyard Beekeepers. Suddenly she had dozens of people who could teach her the finer points of beekeeping and with whom she could collaborate.
“Our honey is amazing because it’s really just the flavor of this neighborhood,” said Zeman. “There are all these citrus trees, and peaches, and pomegranates and figs. Bees will travel up to three miles to collect nectar and honey, but we have a lot of trees on our property, so they probably don’t go far. So really, our honey is just a mixture of the flavors and aromas of the trees and flowers in this neighborhood.”
The creator of the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers group came up with the idea to organize a festival dedicated to bees and beekeeping. Zeman eagerly jumped at the chance to volunteer her time to the project.
The first annual Arizona Honeybee Festival, to be held on November 18, will be a fun, informative introduction to the world of bees. On the sprawling grounds of Agave Farms, guests can expect music, food, tastings, chef demonstrations (all honey-related, of course), speakers, a great kids zone, and various other Arizona vendors, offering things like candles, soaps, honey kombucha tea and honey mead. The talks will cover topics such as pest management, beekeeping basics, the history of beekeeping down through the ages (given by Zeman), and even the medicinal properties of bee venom.
“Bees have changed my life,” said Zeman. “They’re fascinating creatures. We have bees, but they’re friendly, and they’re pollinating your trees and flowers and gardens. You understand nature so much more when you understand the workings of bees.”