Most people are aware of the plight of the humble honeybee, the numbers of which have decreased since the 1960s from approximately 7 million to a mere 2.5 million. More recently, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has greatly affected honeybee populations. CCD is just what it sounds like -- bees suddenly and spontaneously die off in such numbers that the hive can no longer support itself and the colony fails. The primary culprits responsible for the decline in honeybees include poor practices in commercial beekeeping, certain viruses and, perhaps most significantly, the widespread use of nenicotinoid pesticides (i.e., RoundUp).
In response, many people are helping by becoming responsible beekeepers who opt for natural beekeeping practices over highly mechanized methods designed to maximize financial returns that do anything but enhance the lives of honeybees. If you're one of these crusaders, or if you're thinking of becoming a beekeeper next season, this immune-boosting honeybee tea recipe is one to print and keep.
This recipe comes from the good folks at the Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in Virginia, who are dedicated to promoting sustainable and biodynamic beekeeping practices through research and education. In addition to providing a sanctuary for more than 30 honeybee hives, director and master apiarist Gunther Hauk developed this formula based on the observation of how chamomile, yarrow, nettle and other herbs contribute to the metabolic processes in "cooking" compost. To learn more about the sanctuary and sustainable beekeeping (good idea!), or just to drop off a note of thanks to Gunther (another good idea!), please visit www.spikenardfarm.org.
Preparation: Have 2 quart-sized jars ready. Bring 3 cups of filtered water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-aluminum saucepan. Remove from the heat and immediately add:
½ teaspoon organic dried chamomile ½ teaspoon organic dried yarrow ½ teaspoon organic dried nettle ½ teaspoon organic dried peppermint ¼ teaspoon organic dried sage ¼ teaspoon organic dried hyssop leaves ¼ teaspoon organic dried thyme leaves ¼ teaspoon organic dried lemon balm leaves ¼ teaspoon organic dried rue leaves
Let the mixture steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or a small mesh colander, reserving the liquid in a clean container. To this add 3 cups cold filtered water. Let the tea cool completely, then add 1 cup of organic, local honey. Stir to blend. Transfer the tea into the jars and secure the lids.
According to Mr. Hauk, this is enough tea to treat two hives, with doses given every 1-2 months from early spring through late summer. If you only have one hive, store one quart of prepared tea in the refrigerator until needed - just bring it to room temperature before giving it to the bees. If you have several hives, double or triple the recipe accordingly.