I recently received a call from Patrick Stutz of Stutz Photography, asking if I would help him with an upcoming show. Yahara Bay Distillery in Madison is putting on a Preserve Festival to celebrate food and its preservation. You can see an article covering the festival from the Wisconsin State Journal and find more details about the upcoming honey festival here — I hope to be there, too.
Patrick’s idea was to turn the theme of “preserves” on its head. He was looking for people who are involved in the process. He asked if I would be willing to have a portrait taken in my bee gear. I’m excited to share the result of his work, along with the description he put together based on our discussion during the shoot.
The Honey Thief
“Bees make the preserves,” Scott Johnson said. “They get the nectar, dehydrate it and make it shelf stable for thousands of years. We just steal it.” Johnson, who operates the Low Technology Institute in Cooksville, WI, takes an old-world approach to beekeeping that is challenging current methods and fighting Colony Collapse Disorder. “Varroa mites are basically wood ticks, but for bees,” Johnson said. “They bring disease and parasitize the larva in the comb. Other things can lead to Colony Collapse Disorder, but they are the biggest one.” Johnson is using natural selection to find bees that can survive varroa mite infestations without treatments or chemicals — the way Asian and African honey bees have adapted naturally — and it is working. “Now that varroa mites are here, they’re are not going away,” Johnson said. “It’s easy to adopt Dow’s motto of ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ and blindly use new treatments, but bees need to adapt, rather then having a Band-Aid of chemicals that keep them alive for just another season. It is really preserving the bees by adopting the old ways and adapting them for the future.”
It feels a little indulgent to share this, but anything I can do to raise awareness of the institute’s interest in Varroa-tolerant bees is an opportunity I’ll take.