CHATHAM, NJ - The American Beekeeping Federation’s 2019 winner of the American Honey Princess award visited the Chatham Borough Farmers’ Market on Saturday as a stop on her nationwide tour to speak out and promote the importance of honeybees.

This year’s Honey Princess, Nicole Medina, is from Sussex County. She is 20 years old and has been keeping bees for the past five years and has been hosting previous Princesses during their tours for just as long.

“You don’t need to be a beekeeper to be the next Honey Princess,” she said. “You just needed to be inspired and open educating yourself on the subject.”

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Medina recounted her experience hosting previous Honey Princesses: “Their confidence and drive inspired me to learn and grow as a person, and I want to do the same for the young people of today.” 

During her presentation at the farmers' market, Medina prepared a honey cucumber salad from her own original recipe, which can be found below.

“I like to do this recipe during my presentations because cucumber is one of the crops whose success is entirely dependent on bee pollination,” she explained while assembling her ingredients. Along with tomatoes and strawberries, bee pollination plays a crucial role in crop yield, which is important to note since approximately one-third of bee populations are lost every year. “Although they are making a comeback, it is only slight and the bee population is still at risk.”

The most impactful aspect harming bee populations are Varroa mites. These are parasitic mites that attach themselves to a bee’s abdomen and eat away at their fatty cells. These cells cannot be regenerated, and their deterioration greatly weakens the bee’s immune system.

In response to this, Medina said the best approach to take would be to treat sick bees like any other sick animal: treatment and healing. This can be done by beekeepers applying miticides to their beehives upon noticing the presence of the parasites. It is heavily suggested not to use miticides as a protective measure as to avoid any mite populations developing a resistance. 

A second large aspect in the decline in bee populations in the misuse of pesticides. When using them on their properties, people tend to squirt in overly excessive amounts, which overwhelms chemical reactions. When a bee comes in contact with pesticides or insecticides that are used out of moderation, the harmful chemicals can be brought back to the hive and have the potential to cause widespread colony deaths. 

Just because someone isn’t a beekeeper, though, doesn’t mean they can’t do their best to help save the population. An easy way Medina recommends that residents can help is “to hold off cutting your lawn so often,” remarking that by letting dandelions, goldenrods and other wildflowers grow out for about three weeks in the late fall can give honeybees quick (resources) to the nectar-dense plants.

Voluntarily planting wildflowers is also immensely helpful in supporting pollination. The presence of wildflowers is especially important in times of “nectar dearth,” which occurs multiple times throughout the year when there is a shortage of nectar in the local environment. “Dearths” occur during winter and can also occur during the summer between spring and autumn flowers. Wildflowers help by giving bees nectar sources when other options are scarce. 

Medina also stressed the importance of awareness and understanding when faced with bees in real life.

“Honeybees are defensive, not aggressive. They won’t sting you if you don’t agitate them,” she said. “One thing many people don’t realize about bees is that they don’t see like we do. A honeybee might approach you because it smells your soaps and shampoos and confuses you for a flower. Once they get close enough, they can discern that you aren’t what they’re looking for and they’ll be on their way.” 

Supporting your local beekeepers (has many advantages as well). It’s an expensive business for a local keeper to uphold. To produce honey, it takes about 2 million flights per bee per pound of product. When bees fly to collect nectar, they tend to stray from 3 to 5 miles from their hives. This is important to note because local bees will collect pollen from local allergens, and by eating their honey, allergies can become less severe as immunities build up. Also, according to the American Beekeeping Federation, commercial beekeeping has been declining in the United States. 

Medina will continue touring the country and promoting the importance of beekeeping and honeybees. 

Honey Princess Nicole Medina’s Honey Cucumber Salad

- 3 medium English cucumbers, thinly sliced

- ¼ cup honey

- ½ cup white balsamic (or white white) vinegar

- ¼ cup water

- ½ red onion, slivered

- 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

- salt and pepper, to taste

Place cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Toss and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together honey, vinegar, water, and slivered red onions. Pour mixture over the cucumbers and toss. Allow salad to marinate in the refrigerator for about one hour prior to serving.