HOPKINTON – Ancient civilizations knew the value of that golden liquid discovered in wild beehives. It was used in food preparation for its unmatched natural sweetness, in medicines for its strong antibacterial properties, and in religious ceremonies and celebrations.
Man eventually learned how to corral bees and collect a regular abundance of the honey that was produced from the nectar of plants. With protective suits, box frames, smokers and other necessities, the beekeeper became a respected profession.
Our ancestors used honey as an ingredient in syrups for coughs and sore throats, as well as in salves for cuts and burns. It was slathered on warm biscuits and stirred into hot teas. One could never have enough jars of honey as, no matter how much time passed, it’s a delicacy that never spoils. And honey was only one of the treasures to be found in a hive. Beeswax could be used for candle-making, with royal jelly and honeycomb serving additional needs.
During the late 19th century, Rhode Island beekeepers included Walter Sherman of Newport, who made a business out of selling bees, honey and hives. Welcome York of Central Falls was a confectioner who specialized in honeycomb candy.
Sam Lewis, a longtime 19th-century nurseryman and florist in Johnston, was a successful seller of bees and honey, along with grape vines and ornamental shrubs, despite being open for business only from April to June.
After the turn of the century, beekeepers and honey dealers included G.B. Blackmar of Warwick, Thomas Sharples of Hills Grove, Andrew Toner of Westerly, William Siocus of Tiverton and Elisha Sherman of North Kingstown.
‘The Honey Store’, located on Weybosset Street in Providence, during the 1920s, stocked everything a beekeeper would need for his production.
Today, beekeeping is just as popular as it was in the past. We still sweeten our tea with honey, coat our sore throats and splurge on beeswax candles. However, it’s a pastime that requires education and practice. On Feb. 22, from 11 a.m. to noon, Introduction to Beekeeping will be presented at Langworthy Library, located at 24 Spring Street in Hope Valley.
If you have always been interested in keeping bees but not sure how to begin, experts from the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association will be present to answer all your questions.
The event is free and open to the public; however, it is necessary to register by calling 539-2851.