When Kat Clear joined our team at Bee’s Wrap last winter, we were thrilled to welcome an enthusiastic, creative sales representative to the hive. The honey on the cake? Kat’s a new beekeeper — spreading the word about Bee’s Wrap by day, and tending her very own honey bees at home.
Kat and her husband Rolf live in nearby Ferrisburgh on a 25-acre homestead. They keep chickens, and garden extensively (Kat’s even opening up a farmstand down the road with a neighbor). It was gardening that initially prompted the pair’s curiosity about bees; they knew that bees are important pollinators, and they’d heard stories about the decline of the honeybee. They bought a book, attended a local beekeeping class, and last year installed their first hive.
This year, Kat and Rolf are keeping two hives — Italian honey bees bred in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. (Acquiring local “nucs” means the bees are bred to thrive in this particular environment, and supports the local economy.) Two hives are helpful for novice beekeepers, Kat says, because they provide a kind of reference for one another; if one hive is thriving and the other struggling, the beekeepers can investigate potential problems.
Kat’s intensely curious about bees — eager to tell us, her equally curious coworkers, about a queen sighting or a bee’s fuzzy back or (who knew?!) long tongue. (“Have you ever seen a bee tongue? Come to my house. I’ll show you one,” said Kat.) For Kat, beekeeping has been a grounding process, not unlike gardening, that is a tactile connection back to the earth.
“It’s all about the bees when you’re with them,” said Kat. “There’s no distraction, there’s no taking pictures. It’s about observation, and understanding, and taking care of them.”
She’s also inspired by the bees’ hard-working, community-minded ethic. “They’re individuals, but they’re all working towards a common goal,” she said. “They have this hive mind, and they’re all centered around this bigger thing.”
Kat’s also passionate about teaching others about bees. “It’s really exciting to me to get engaged with kids that are learning about pollination and how that works,” she said. She’s our point person with The Bee Cause, our nonprofit partner in sponsoring observation hives in local schools. She was on hand when our donated hive was installed at Cornwall’s Bingham Memorial School, and delights in watching kids react with fascination, rather than fear, to bees.
“You grow up running away from bees, swatting things not to sting you,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I back up all the time, I get nervous. But when you get a footstep past that, and can be there with them, they’re so beautiful.”