Bittersweet business: Local bee keeper sells honey, raises awareness on bee issues

For the past decade or so, there has been a buzz surrounding the
property located at 2751 W. Saginaw Road in Mayville.
Quite literally.
Since 2008, Circle T Apiary, located at the previously mentioned
address, has provided home-town honey for Thumb-area residents.
Owned and operated by Theresa Bristol-Miller, who resides in a home on
the property along with husband Ken Miller, the apiary is home to
25-to-30 bee hives that produce about 2,500 pounds of honey annually.
“I originally got (the hives) because I did a lot of gardening and I
needed them for pollination,” Bristol-Miller, 57, said. “Then I just
got addicted to bees and I got more and more. I’m trying to develop
bees that are winter-hardy, so they can survive the Michigan winter.”
Bristol-Miller sells honey — and beeswax — out of her home. The honey
can also be found at various businesses, primarily in Mayville and
Vassar — including Wingert’s Food Center in Mayville, and Vassar
businesses Miller’s Orchard, Forever Green and Finish Line Pizza &
Chocolates Galore. Sambuca Cafe, in Vassar, uses Circle T honey in
some of its menu items, Bristol-Miller said. She also sells her
product at craft shows throughout mid-Michigan.
Bristol-Miller estimates that the hives, which are silent most of the
winter, contain about 40,000 bees apiece. Once the warmer weather of
spring arrives though, the population of each hive increases to about
60 to 80,000 per unit. That’s as many as 2.4 million bees buzzing
around the property during the spring and summer months.
Which means Bristol-Miller has to be on her toes.
“I’ve been stung countless times,” she said. “It’s hard for me to go
out there and not be stung.”
The hive’s are located about 100 yards beyond the house (away from W.
Saginaw Road). Also located on the land is Ken Miller’s business — Ken
Miller Sawmill.
“Ken’s father bought the property in 1989 and then retired in 2005,”
Bristol-Miller said. “My husband bought the business in 2008 — the
same year I got into bees.”
Late summer is when honey extraction begins, Bristol-Miller said. And
enough of the sweet stuff is produced to last throughout the next
year. Along with stings, gathering honey is the worst part of the job,
Bristol-Miller said.
Bristol-Miller is, what’s called in the honey biz a “sideliner,”
meaning she makes money, but not enough to make a living from. The
production of honey, she said, is not the primary reason she engages
in bee-keeping.
“The main reason I have bees — they’re endangered and on the decline,”
Bristol-Miller said. “They’re compromised. We use too many chemicals
in our environment. Everyone uses (weed killer), we spray for
mosquitos, it’s compromising the bee population.
“Bee’s are what’s called an ‘environmental indicator.'”
Bee’s are an important part of the ecosystem, responsible for
pollinating a large portion of plants and crops. Crops that are
important to feeding the world’s human population.
Bristol-Miller has ideas that can help rebuild the bee population.
“We have to start right now, we cannot wait,” she said. “Every person
has to start either providing habitat or trying to use less chemicals.
I read somewhere that what’s going to save the bee is the small
hobbyist bee keeper.
“And if you want to learn how to keep bees, I will gladly teach you.”
Bees can be purchased, but they can also be captured — and
Bristol-Miller has added to her bee colony by doing both.
Bristol-Miller is a member of the mid-Michigan Bee Club and the
Michigan Beekeepers Association. Her interest in bees began at an
early age — her father was also a bee keeper.
Circle T honey sells for $5 a pound, $6 a pint and $10 a quart at
Bristol-Miller’s home store.
For more information on bee keeping, there is a mid-Michigan Bee
Keepers meeting the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at
Forest Township Hall in Otisville.
John Schneider is sports editor of The Advertiser and can be reached

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