month we highlight local businesses aligned with our mission to promote locally produced foods and crafts. This month we feature the Brandywine Bee Co., owned and operated by very early Member-Owners, Michael and Karen Langer. You will recognize Michael and his honey products from the Kennett Farmers Market, KCG’s first Co-op Box pick-up, and other local outlets.
Michael and Karen have been keeping bees for nearly ten years. They started with two hives in their backyard and quickly expanded to ten. They now have six apiaries with over 50 bee colonies. It is truly a family business: Michael is the beekeeper and chief bottler, Karen supports labeling, and daughter Meredith is the creative director responsible for labels, logos and signage. Michael is rightfully proud of the purity of their honey and the variety achieved by harvesting through the seasons: “we are able to sell spring, summer, and late summer/fall honey. All very different in taste and color. We do not supplement our harvest with purchased honey from suppliers. We know by case and by jar, where and when it was harvested. All our honey is raw…never filtered or heat treated.”
In addition to selling honey and beeswax products, such as candles and salves, Michael is passionate about educating and promoting healthy beekeeping. Working with the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County – now part of the Red Clay Alliance – and the Chester County Beekeepers Association, Brandywine Bee offers advice and support to other beekeepers and raises quality queens to sell. As the health of bee populations and the availability of sources of pollination come under threat, Michael sees education and community support as critical.
Community cooperation in the beekeeping world aligns perfectly with the mission of KCG, and Michael is a long-time supporter: “We joined 4 years ago as a supporter of a true local effort to serve an important need. We joined Kennett Community Grocer as members not as a potential vendor; [we] really wanted to be part of something special to our local community.” Nevertheless, KCG shoppers would be fortunate to see an expansion of Michael’s title to member-owner-vendor.
Some Facts About Bees and Beekeeping:
1. Nearly two-thirds of people who set out to be beekeepers don’t make it to year three – a big reason for Michael’s support of education.
2. Bees only live for 40 days during the summer. The queen will lay over 2,000 eggs per day to replace the short-lived hard-working foragers.
3. Honey bees swarm in May and June. It’s a natural event and while it appears scary, all they want to do is find a new home. Ninety percent of all swarms do not survive. Contact a local beekeeper to help save a swarm.