The Beekeeper’s Daughter …
You can learn a lot from a bee. Just ask Hannah Comeau, the owner of The Beekeeper’s Daughter, which offers raw honey in a variety of flavors, including Orange Blossom, Palmetto, Brazilian Pepper, Wildflower and Goldenrod. Comeau’s family is fourth generation beekeepers. Her great-great grandfather started a few hives back in the 1800s, and today Perry Apiaries in Dallas has 3,000 hives. They migrate their bees from Pennsylvania to Florida so they stay in prime condition all winter. While the bees are hard at work in Florida’s orange blossom fields, Comeau can be found with her raw honey at farmers’ markets throughout northeastern Pennsylvania and at special events such as the Fall Harvest and Honey Festival at Everything Natural in Clarks Summit on Saturday, Sept. 21. We recently caught up with her on the family farm in Dallas where the turkeys were gobbling, the rooster was crowing and the bees were, well, getting ready to pack up their hives and head south for the winter. (Don’t worry, Comeau’s father, William Perry, will bring them back to Pennsylvania once the first dandelion makes an appearance in spring). Although she is allergic to bee stings and must be careful around them, her love for the honeybee will never wane. Meet Hannah Comeau …
This farm is beautiful and the honey house smells so good. What was it like growing up here?
It was great. We bailed hay every summer and we’d wrestle in the cows, and when I was little we had a strawberry farm and I used to go out in the strawberry fields and help my dad pick berries and help the customers pick strawberries. We built bee hives and put the frames together. I think it created a good work ethic, and I want to do the same for my daughter (Celeste, age 7).
You come from a long line of beekeepers so it makes sense that you named your business The Beekeeper’s Daughter. Tell us about it.
I sell raw honey at farmers’ markets and stores, and honey-related products, such as beeswax, creamed honey, bee pollen and honey sticks. I also do a lot of educational speaking as well. I take the observation hive to schools and events and I talk to people about bees and get people excited about beekeeping. I also offer vintage honey jar wedding and bridal shower favors. It’s a sweet gift filled with honey.
Your honey is raw. What’s the difference between raw and pasteurized honey?
The difference between raw honey, which is unpasteurized, and pasteurized honey is that pasteurized honey has been heated above 180 degrees to break down the sugar crystals in the honey so it doesn’t granulate on the grocery store shelves. It’s filtered as well. The problem with doing this is you’re killing all the vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, minerals and all the things that are naturally found in honey. Honey is antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal. In other countries, it’s used for medicinal purposes. When you pasteurize it, you’re almost left with a syrup – not that honey isn’t great. It still has a lower Glycemic Index and there are benefits to it. But I compare pasteurization to overcooking your vegetables. When you cook vegetables, all the vitamins go down the drain when you rinse them. That’s why they say steam your vegetables, and don’t boil them. It’s very similar with honey. Don’t overheat your honey.
Is it true that raw honey helps relieve allergies?
Yes, honey helps with allergy relief and arthritis — there are so many benefits to eating honey not just the fact that you’re getting vitamins. People take it for energy, for stamina, and they use it for cuts, scrapes and burns. Naturally, a hive of bees is a very sterile environment. They’re very strict on things coming in there. People get wary of raw honey and wonder if it’s safe, and it is. It’s very safe.
It’s great in so many dishes, too. What’s your favorite recipe using honey?
I love making honey granola — some good old honey, rolled oats and flax seed — it’s just delicious. I love it, and my daughter loves it, too.
You really love your bees, don’t you?
People often ask me, “What’s your favorite thing about the hive?” Bees just get me so excited — we have bee-themed items all over the house. I keep a jar of honey next to my bed (laughs). It’s ridiculous! It’s sealed and it’s just decoration, but it’s there. And we use honey jars at home to hold our toothbrushes. Everything has something to do with bees. My daughter will go off to school and when she comes home – what did she draw a picture of? Bees. It’s an obsession. I think it happened generations ago.
You’ll be at the Fall Harvest and Honey Festival at Everything Natural on Saturday. What can we expect?
I’ll have an observation hive, which is basically a box with two plexiglass sides so you can really see inside and see what the bees are doing. I’ll be answering questions about beekeeping – where people can get started, and how they can join their local beekeeping association. A lot of people think they should start by going out and buying a swarm of bees, but it’s always great to just start with a swarm of bees (locally) that are already working and not necessarily ordering them off the internet. Also, I’ll have a microscope there with bees and bee parts, something fun for the kids to look at – kind of pick a bee apart. It’s really fun.
What can the average person do to help support the bee population?
Starting a garden is great. Getting a hive of bees, even just one, is a help because it’s not only going to make your garden better, but it’s going to make your neighbor’s garden better. Your fruit and veggies will be much better and much nicer if you have honeybees on your property. So becoming a beekeeper is one way to help, or writing to your senator in support of funding and research for the honeybee.
— julie imel