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Aug 08.14

Coneybeare Honey: Get the Buzz on our Honey Supplier

We're definitely sweet on honey! We buy over 5,505 kg of honey each year from Coneybeare Honey to use across our product ranges for its moisturizing, reparative and antimicrobial properties. Coneybeare Honey, a third generation family-owned business, started in 1925 and now boasts 850 active hives. At the helm of it all is Jim Coneybeare, who took over the family business from his father in 1996. We recently spoke with Jim about his love of beekeeping, the astonishing abilities of our little winged friends and how our current agricultural climate has put them in sticky situation.


 You grew up in the beekeeping industry. What's your earliest memory of interacting with honey bees?

It was my maternal grandfather that started keeping bees. My first experience was probably close to two or three years old, when my mother would bring me along to visit the hives. I remember it being a thrill for me to see the drones [male bees] because they don't sting. My father would bring home drones in a large matchbox and I was so happy to play with them.

We love using honey in our products at LUSH! Do you have any uses for honey we might not know about?

Honey has three or four natural antibiotic qualities. If I have a cut or burn, I put honey on it and it's the best healer that I know of! The pureness of the product is incredible. They've found 3000 year old honey in Egyptian tombs that's still edible because it literally never goes bad.

We've seen a rapid, mysterious decline in bee populations since 2006. In your opinion, what is the biggest threat to honey bees in North America today?

The number one threat is neonicotinoids [a class of pesticides] and it's because they're being pushed into our environment from every direction. They're applying it to corn, soy, wheat- everything. We can't get away from it. It's a very clear indicator of what's happening in our food industry. Bees are fully out in our environment. They fly up to three kilometers in any direction and they're indicating what they're coming across.

How have your hives been affected by this phenomenon?

They've been very heavily affected. Last year I saw about a 20-25% loss in my hives and it looks like a 65% loss this year. Neonicotinoids wipe out the bees. They can poison them outright, or cause the bees' neurosystem to malfunction and inhibit their foraging instincts.

What would the collapse of honey bees mean for food production in North America?

We would have a pretty bland diet! We'll have wheat, corn and soybeans, but all the fruits and vegetables we normally eat won't be pollinated. But it goes way further than that- we could lose birds, other insects. If we carry on this route, we'll be in real trouble.

I still have a love and passion for beekeeping, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I may not be able to continue in this agricultural climate. Bees are nature. You're working with a living creature. It's amazing. There's scarcely a day when I don't learn something. It's challenging, and that's why I do it. I would definitely call myself a bee expert at this stage in my career, but I'm still learning every single day and it's very fulfilling. Although, it does sound funny when I say I make my living keeping bugs in a box that are capable of stinging me!

Working with living creatures must involve a tremendous amount of cooperation. What are the benefits of working with nature (instead of against it)?

When you look at bees and their abilities, they're truly amazing. Their ability to communicate is incredible. They can pin point a plant of interest and then fly four kilometers back to their hive and communicate the location of that plant well enough that the other forager bees with find it within a meter in fifteen minutes. You have 65,000 bees in a hive and they all work together as a single organism. They have common goals and they work together to achieve them.

What can our readers do to help improve the health of our honey bee populations?

It's about awareness. Be open-minded and look for good science on the subject. What I mean by 'good science' is peer-reviewed and independently funded. Did a chemical company pay for the research? Or did independent scientists produce it? Buy local and support your local beekeeper. Read the fine print on your honey labels to see where your honey really comes from.

To learn more about Coneybeare Honey, visit them at