All Abuzz at the Dr. Robinson Plantation This Weekend
Beekeeper brings hive and honey to amaze and educate.
About 4,000 bees descended on the Dr. Robinson Plantation on Sunday, but not to worry: they were safely behind glass. Joseph Lelinho of Hilltop Honey in North Caldwell, NJ, brought the bees, along with homemade beeswax candles and jars of honey for sale, in an effort to entertain and educate.
“Dr. Robinson was into herbal medicine, so he probably made honey,” said Lisa Jennings of the Clark Historical Society. “I did some research and found Joe. This is the second year we’ve had him. The kids loved him (the first time) so we definitely had to have him back.”
Lelinho agrees that honey is good for the body and skin, as well as being delicious. It has antibacterial properties that make it good for use on cuts and soar throats, and a dose of honey can help calm the intestines. But mass-produced honey is heated too much, and the heating process strips honey of its medicinal properties. Lelinho’s honey is not heated at all, merely strained of the largest chunks of beeswax.
“Some people are completely sold on (buying) local (products),” said Lelinho. “My customers want (my honey) for the quality.”
Lelinho has been keeping bees for 17 years. A friend of his was a beekeeper and Lelinho was intrigued. His friend showed him a display hive like the one Lelinho brought to the plantation, and Lelinho was amazed at how docile and hard-working the bees were; the insects went about their business and neither of the men were stung. Soon after, he obtained his first hive, and what started as a hobby quickly became a passion. Seventeen years later, Hilltop Honey has at least 2.5 million bees: 50 colonies at 50,000 – 70,000 bees each.
Lelinho has become an expert at reading the bees’ body language. Though they’re usually content to let him work with them, he knows that when the guard bees raise their stingers in the air, he needs to leave them alone. The bees can even identify him by scent. Though not quite a member of the hive, Lelinho thinks he’s “a friend of the family.”
“The hive knows the beekeeper? My goodness!” gasped one onlooker.
Lelinho notes that honeybees pollinate one-third of all the food we eat, including apples, berries, many trees, cotton and cacao (the plant from which chocolate comes). If the worldwide decline in honeybees continues, it could have dire results on our food supplies.
While the children gathered around the display hive trying to spot the queen with Lelinho’s assistant, Christine Micklasavage, their parents were clustered around Lelinho asking intelligent, educated questions. That, says Lelinho, is the reason he comes to events like the plantation, in addition to selling his products.
“If it’s good for the beekeeper, it’s good for the bees,” said Lelinho. “Ultimately, the public will be the ones to save (the bees).”