Arizona’s Queen Bee is Creating Quite the Buzz
Emily Brown holds many titles. She’s been the Pennsylvania Honey Queen, the American Honey Queen and is currently resident beekeeper at Butterfly Wonderland, as well as owner of AZ Queen Bee, a bee management company in Scottsdale. But despite wearing many different hats, one thing has remained steadfast in her life: her love of bees.
When Brown was in second or third grade, she read a story about bees, and since then her fascination with the creatures has never wavered. As a middle schooler, she shadowed bee professionals in her home state of Pennsylvania, and when she turned 16 her parents allowed her to get beekeeping equipment. Brown also started attending local beekeeping club meetings, where she found out about the State Honey Queen program. After winning the title, she spent a year traveling around Pennsylvania garnering publicity, promoting the use of honey and teaching people about beekeeping. Following the state title, she was crowned national American Honey Queen by the American Beekeeping Federation in 1997, then took a semester off from college to traverse the country, teaching the basics of beekeeping.
After moving to Arizona in the early 2000s, Brown worked a corporate job before returning to her earliest and strongest passion. As resident beekeeper at Butterfly Wonderland she’s responsible for maintaining the museum’s observation hive, ensuring that the queen is there and laying eggs. She also maintains a few beehives scattered throughout remote areas in the Valley, as well as a small hive in her backyard that she uses in presentations she gives to school and civic groups.
So, just what makes honey so extraordinary?
“I like the idea that honey is incredibly unique based on the area that it comes from,” says Brown. “Every honey is different based on the environment and the nectar flow that year.”
She says Arizona honey, in particular, is unique because there’s not a lot of nearby agriculture and pesticide usage is low.
“You have this very clean environment with really unique vegetation,” says Brown, describing our state’s honey as “light mesquite.”
And you’d probably be surprised at just how productive these bees really are.
“One bee only makes one drop of honey. If you keep that in mind, you understand how much work goes into the production of just one pound of honey,” says Brown. “It’s amazing to me that we have these insects that can do that for us. We can take this golden goodness and put it to use.”
To capture a little bit of that “golden goodness,” Brown bottles her own honey.
“I personally think that the honey I bottle is extremely rare and very unique. It captures the essence of the Sonoran landscape.”
“I’m also very diligent in my beekeeping,” she says. “ I don’t use any chemicals and I’m treatment free. It’s as natural as it possibly can be because that’s how I want to eat it. I feel like there’s a lot more art, maybe, to what I do. It’s a lot slower process, everything takes a little longer the way I do it, but I believe it makes it a better product.”
She also creates personal care products such as lotion bars, rolled candles and beeswax lip balm. Both Benedict’s Café in Scottsdale and Butterfly Wonderland carry her goods, while La Grande Orange stocks her honey.
“With the harvesting of honey, you always have the byproduct of beautiful beeswax,” Brown says.
Beeswax, which is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs or attracts moisture, makes it an ideal ingredient in lip balm or lotion. Besides naturally sealing in moisture, beeswax also repels water and has natural SPF 15.
In case you were wondering, yes, she does get stung. But that doesn’t deter her in the slightest.
“I personally enjoy the idea of beekeeping in that I’m constantly learning,” Brown says. “I’ve been beekeeping for over 20 years and there’s so much to learn. There’s so much to be looking for.”
For more information, please visit AZQueenBee.com.