Aaron Perry


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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 153 - Joy & Eric McEwen, Authors, "Raising Resilient Bees"

Professional bee keepers Joy and Eric McEwen discuss the natural bee-keeping methods and principles that they practice at their Diggin’ Livin’ Farm and Apiary in Oregon, and that they share in their new book Raising Resilient Bees: Heritage Techniques to Mitigate Mites, Preserve Locally Adapted Genetics, and Grow Your Apiary (published by Chelsea Green Publishing). With deep expertise and an extraordinary capacity to “listen” to their natural ecosystemic surroundings, the couple discusses how their naturally managed honeybees were instrumental in the restoration of their homestead, which is now flourishing on previously degraded land. From “bee magic” to the role of honeybees in ancient Egyptian and Celtic cultures, and from advanced scientific understanding to inspired and attuned nature-collaboration, Joy and Eric bring a unique and deeply informed perspective to beekeeping and educating aspiring beekeepers.

About Raising Resilient Bees

The book is a clearly and cogently written resource with beautiful photos throughout. Part chronicle of their bee-keeping and land stewardship journey and part “how-to” for aspiring and seasoned beekeepers alike, Raising Resilient Bees is a must-have for land-stewards, regeneration practitioners, and beekeepers of all levels of experience. With decades of research and practice informing its pages, the book presents a wide array of essential information, some rather nuanced and intriguing, such as why certain types of wood (cedars) are better suited to providing natural insulation and water repellent properties to the honeybee hives, and how honeybees help to accelerate and amplify the climate-stabilizing carbon sequestration properties of regenerative agricultural systems and land stewardship practices.  

Exclusive for the Y on Earth Community Podcast Audience

Get a 35% discount on your copy of Raising Resilient Bees from Chelsea Green Publishing using the code: YOE35 at chelseagreen.com.

About Joy McEwen

Joy Catherine LeBlang McEwen manages Diggin’ Livin’ Farm & Apiaries, a homestead, organic farm, and commercial beekeeping operation. She holds two bachelor of science degrees, as well as a master of science in environmental science from Oregon State University. When she isn’t tending hives or farming, she works as an apitherapist with a practice in southern Oregon and makes a line of jun beverages called Honey Bee Brews. Joy is a committee member on the USDA Farm Service Agency board for Josephine and Jackson Counties, Oregon, and she serves as a board member on the Illinois Valley Watershed Council, as well as a board member for the American Apitherapy Society.

About Eric McEwen

Eric Muench McEwen heads the beekeeping opertion for Diggin’ Livin’ Farm & Apiaries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in botany and plant pathology from Oregon State University. He has spent the last 20 years experimenting with the development of organic management practices while tending approximately 700 honey bee colonies. A former mentor for the Oregon State University Master Beekeeper Program, Eric has served as the Southern Oregon Representative on the Oregon State Beekeepers Association administrative board. He is a member of the Adaptive Bee Breeders Alliance, a SARE-funded consortium of honey bee professionals and academics collaborating on stock improvement focused breeding efforts. He is the originator and manufacturer of Natural Nest beehives, an improved style of 8-frame Langstroth equipment for organic beekeeping. Eric is also a trained botanist and naturalist who loves the wild side of the great outdoors.

About Chelsea Green Publishing

Founded in 1984, Chelsea Green Publishing is recognized as a leading publisher of books on the politics and practice of ecologically based living, publishing authors who bring in-depth, practical knowledge to life, and give readers hands-on information related to organic and regenerative farming and gardening, ecology and the environment, healthy food, local economies and resilient communities, and integrative health and wellness. An employee-owned company, Chelsea Green publishes authors that empower and inspire individuals to reduce their ecological impact and to participate in the restoration of healthy local communities, bioregional ecosystems, and a diversity of cultures. Chelsea Green promotes better understanding of natural systems as a global-commons and to empower people to participate in restoring those commons, to serve as its effective stewards, and to help mitigate worldwide social and environmental disruptions.

Chelsea Green Publishing is a Partner/Sponsor of the Y on Earth Community Podcast and offers our audience a special 35% discount on books and audiobooks with the code: YOE35. Go to yonearth.org/partners-supporters for more information and to get your discount.

Resources & Related Episodes


Facebook: DigginLivin

Instagram: digginlivinbees

Chesleagreen.com (use code: YOE35 for an exclusive 35% discount!)

Ep 146 – Matthew Derr, Executive Director, Chelsea Green Foundation

Ep 144 – Vicki Hird, Author, Rebugging the Planet (published by Chelsea Green Publishing)

Ep 142 – Maria Rodale, Author, Love, Nature, Magic (published by Chelsea Green Publishing)

Ep 126 – David George Haskell, Author, Sounds Wild and Broken

Ep 102 – Julie Morris and Louise Chawla, People & Pollinators Action Network

Ep 029 – Courtney Cosgriff, Founder, Honeybee Herbals

Ep 028 – Scott Black, Executive Director, Xerces Society


(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes – grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Welcome to the YonEarth community podcast. I’m your host, Aaron William Perry. And today we are at the 2023 Biodynamic Demeter Alliance conference in Westminster, Colorado for our national gathering and have the opportunity to visit in person with joy and Eric McEwen, the authors of raising resilient bees heritage techniques to mitigate mites preserved locally adapted genetics and grow your apiary and joy.

Eric, it’s such a joy to be able to visit you guys in person and to be able to share a bit with our audience about your amazing book. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much. It’s really very generous.

Rather than zoom to do it in person, it’s a nice additional benefit to be able to be together in person.

I agree. And we’re here at the the bottom of a conference right with so many extraordinary lamb stewards and healers, farmers, food and medicine growers.

Yeah, visionaries. Yeah, teachers all around. Yeah, a lot of wisdom in one room. Yeah, yeah, such a treat. I agree.

So I’m really happy we get to visit together. And I’ll share a bit about your backgrounds, which are really extensive and impressive.

And this book is one of the many beautiful publications from our friends at Chelsea Green publishing. So a huge shout out to Chelsea Green. And we’ve got a special deal for you that will share about a little later.

So to get things rolling joy, Catherine, LeBlanc, McEwen, Manages, Diggin, Lincoln, Farm and the apiaries, a homestead, organic farm and commercial beekeeping operation.

She holds two bachelor of science degrees, as well as a master of science and environmental science from Oregon State University.

When she isn’t tending hives or farming, she works as an api therapist with a practice in Southern Oregon and makes a line of the Jun beverages called honey bee bruise.

And we’re going to need to talk both about the Jun and the api therapy, of course. And joy is a committee member on the USDA Farm Service Agency board for Joseph,

Jackson County’s in Oregon, and also serves as a board member on the Illinois Valley Watershed Council. And is a board member for the American api therapy society api therapy society.

So absolutely beautiful. Eric, Mitch McEwen heads the beekeeping operation for Diggin, living farm and apiaries. That’s so fun to say.

He holds a bachelor of science degree in botany and plant pathology from Oregon State University has spent the last 20 years experimenting with the development of organic management practices while tending approximately 700 honey bee colonies. Wow, that’s a lot.

A former mentor for the Oregon State University master beekeeper program, Eric has served as the Southern Oregon representative on the Oregon State Beekeepers Association administration board.

And is a member of the adaptive bee breeders alliance, a serifunded consortium of honey bee professionals and academics collaborating on stock improvement focused breeding efforts.

He’s the originator and manufacturer of natural nest beehives and improved style of eight frame landstraft equipment for organic beekeeping.

Eric is also a trained botanist and naturalist who loves the wild side of the great outdoors, and I want to ask you about that as well.

So we’ve got a lot to talk about, of course, in the book, which I got to say is so beautiful with the many amazing photos, many of which are in Oregon, I take it.

And is talk full of really practical information for beekeeping.

And let’s kind of dive right into it and let me ask you guys why beekeeping and what drew you to beekeeping and why has beekeeping become such a central focus of your stewardship work, your land management work,

your food and medicine work? Why bees?

Well, I mean, why bees?

You know, anyone who’s just experienced the presence of bees, when you are in their company, when you are immersed in their frequency, their vibrational energy,

it’s nothing short of mesmerizing.

So I had the pleasure, honestly, we were talking earlier in another person’s talk on beekeeping today about just those fleeting moments in your life that can be just this ephemeral moment, but that it gets inside you and changes you forever.

And honestly, in that moment today, in that discussion, the moment that popped into my mind was this first time that I ever had the opportunity to open the insa, or to be present for the opening of a hive.

And at that time, it wasn’t my hives. I was 21, I think, maybe living in Eugene, Oregon, and I went to a talk by some community beekeepers who had hives at a local community garden.

And they were just giving kind of this run of the mill talk of the fundamentals of beekeeping.

But I stuck around after the talk and they could just sort of, my inquisitiveness was palpable.

So they threw me in a suit and they brought me over to their couple hives they had there and opened them up for me.

And I can still remember that day like yesterday and it was at the end of that additional half hour or so getting to look at these bees with those beekeepers.

It was just clear to me I was like, I’m going to do this someday.

And that someday was another six or seven years later or something, but it had that impression on me.

And what it was, exactly, I don’t really know, I think it was the mystery.

You know, the intrigue and the mystery of getting to watch this highly organized society, you know, operating all of its intricacies just right before your eyes just moving about.

I mean, I wasn’t thrilled.

And then, you know, I think like so many beekeepers, you start with one hive and it’s like, it grows like an addiction.

I don’t know that, you know, hopefully, well, there’s been times where maybe it didn’t even feel healthy or maybe it was even out of balance.

But the fact is there was no turning back, you know, it was just the way it was going to go.

I think mine feels pretty different in that what initially led me into bees, I would say I had a yearning to be a production organic farmer.

So there was this practicality aspect for me that we moved down from the Malama Valley of Oregon into that we found a wonderful piece of land over in Southern Oregon.

And it was affordable and it was on the river, but it was also forested beautifully, beautiful.

But it didn’t look like an organic vegetable farm.

So that is one part about beekeeping is that we were able to bring, it was initially bringing our 20 hives down from Corvallis and then multiply and then being able to have a smaller footprint and have the accessibility of clean air, clean water and abundant forage.

And this wild forest that really made it that this was the way I was going to become that professional agriculturalist.

So I think mine was a little bit more practical. Usually we’re opposite. Usually I’m a little bit more a serial and he’s more practical.

That’s OK.

It was a balance.

Yeah, there we go.

Oh my gosh.

Yeah, yeah.


And I got asked joy. So AP therapy, AP therapy.


I maybe had an inkling that this was a thing, but this is a real thing.

Oh, it’s definitely a real thing for like thousands and thousands of years in this practice all over the world.


So actually, Eric and I, we just came back from a conference called Apomandia.

It was this year.

It was in Chile and Santiago and every other year, it switches spots around the world.

And there’s six major focuses of this conference.

So this is gathering some of like the biggest investments just be thinkers of the world.

So for AP therapy to be one of six of the main topics.

Oh wow.

OK, so one of the six main topics Eric and I actually spoke on the topic of rural development.

But it was really interesting to just see all of these professionals in the field of AP therapy gathering to talk about their practices.

So generally, it is using all the products of the hive as medicine.

And then I initially got my start about 10 years ago.

In 2013, the American AP therapy society had a conference in Portland.

And I attended that conference.

And even at the time, most of the speakers and a lot of the members of the board were doctors.

And they just kept presenting this like incredible story and hearing all sorts of various attributes of just not just be them therapy, but honey and all the products of the hive.

And at the same time, what compels me into this, which felt so cool about this program and the conference at the time,

was that there were so many doctors there and they wanted to share all of this research.

And they wanted more and more people to learn about it and practice it.

But here they were American doctors and they’re like, our hands are tied.

Like, please be keepers, especially.

Please get this information out to the people you interact with.

And part of that is that this is so much of so many people are practicing this around the world.

So I think the US is just a little bit behind.

But currently, I am now a board member for that American AP therapy society.

Well, it’s so beautiful.

And you know, we had on a past episode, our friend Courtney Cosgrapher who’s a beekeeper doing all kinds of work with food and medicine with the honey bees.

And she was talking a fair bit about some of the ancient esoteric mystery schools and the connection with the bees, the bee hives, the bee medicine, the vibrational frequencies.

I guess this thing is so, it really is a holistic milieu, isn’t it, for our human well-being and our direct connection with nature, with our agricultural communities and organisms, farm organisms.

There’s like a node here that I think is so potent.

And probably in the mainstream of the American culture is a bit invisible for a lot of us, right?

And it’s so central, isn’t it?


Well, I think part of it is we’re just going back into all that, just the great remembering.

Ah, yeah.

Like that.


I mean, certainly our historical cultures, you know, placed these mysteries, these schools, these magic at the center of society, right?

I mean, certainly like we can turn to Egypt or Central Europe.

Tens of thousands of years, if not hundreds of thousands of years.




Where, you know, the mystery of the bee and the potency of the bee magic was revered at the center of culture.

It was, you know, it occupied the sphere that everyone was well aware of, you know, and turned to and relied upon.


And just think goodness that that’s finally, I mean, if there’s so many, just like the simple ones, which is just like killing open wounds with honey.

I mean, come on.

It’s like hydrophobic hydrophobic.

It produced this hydrogen peroxide.

They’re now finally just like even during surgeries where they’re like, okay, we don’t get wound dressing.

We don’t need the antibiotics in this.

Like, let’s just use honey.

And the way is like it profoundly is just like surpassing any type of traditional medicine.

It’s like, okay.


That’s a great example.


It’s like a super disinfectant, isn’t it?

It is.


And yeah, it’s humectant qualities, like minimize scar tissue, prevent infections.

It allows like a moist environment for skin tissue to heal from the inside out.

And, you know, the best burn labs in the world are using this, you know, cure of antiquity.

So this really kind of goes into like now kind of the push of the book.

Like part of us and who we are is that we’re really interested in being food producers and specifically honey producers.

We’re big believers in honey.




I love honey and I have a number of…

We can be friends.

Be keeping friends.

And I’ve actually kept these a little bit myself.


Just a little.


And this book is so beautiful.

And I’ll show it again for our audience that are looking at the video version here, raising resilient bees.

And in here, you’ve got just lovely photos, lots of hands-on moments that are documented in the photography of it.

And in the text, of course, you’re covering a number of key items and issues in the course of the seven chapters.

And this first chapter in new APRE for a new age.

I was hoping you could tell us a bit about, you know, what’s that all about?

What do you mean by a new APRE for a new age?

Well, I mean, you know, I think like most people are aware that the bees are under pressure.

It might be safe to say like, we’re experiencing a crisis in beekeeping and a crisis in the environment that bees require for their health and their well-being.

And that has really occurred in a relatively short period of time.

You know, mirroring industrialization and modern conventional, modern agricultural practices.

And how fast they swept the land base, right?

Like the vast majority of the area that humans are interacting with and modifying the climate of is now under the sway of these new modern techniques.

And the bees, they just went along, you know, they got swept along.

And now here we are, we inadvertently developed our food systems in these new ways so rapidly that the bee is, the consequences for the bee came about, you know, are still being felt like we’re still, we’re now, the fruit is now being harvested from the seeds that we sowed in modern industrial agriculture.

And they’re being reaped in the genre of the bee.

And so, yeah, like so what the new APRA for a new age is really about is that we are having this existential crisis that where it gets used so much these days.

But for the bees, like the bees are on the brink, right?

So we need to make a change, and we need to make a change rapidly.

So it’s important that we start articulating that vision now and start, you know, saying like what are the components and implements, implementation of those components?

What are the things that need to change now?

Because we don’t have another several generations that we took to create the problem to solve the problem, right?

We’ve got to solve this problem in a couple of decades or less, you know, we’ve got to turn this around.

That’s what this is about, is that, you know, the wage, what do I visualize ourselves as is a bridge?

We visualize ourselves as a bridge between the past and the future, between conventional and sustainable, you know, and, you know,

from conventional to regenerative, you know, and these changes that need to occur, they can’t just, we can’t just snap our fingers and start doing things differently.

We’ve got food systems that, you know, depend on bees.

We have people and livelihoods and nutrition that feeds a whole populace that’s dependent upon these existing systems that we have.

So despite the fact that these existing systems are so messed up, so unsustainable, so much like guaranteeing our demise, we can’t just turn them on their head.

Like we’ve got to talk about the transition phase, and that’s, I think, what we envision ourselves as.

Like in the new age, you know, with the new age that we spouse in our book, operations like the operation that we run might not even really need to exist.

But the reality is that we’re absolutely needed right now, like as the bridge, as the integral transition phase from this completely destructive system that dominates our food production, to where we need to go, which is local, sustainable, earth-friendly, non-toxic, you know, that’s where we need to get to.

But of course, you know, it’s going to take creating an architecture to get there that we don’t have right now.

I’d like to ask that.

Please, of course.

Well, you know, a very, very new age.

I think the other part of that is that it really involves community.

Like we all used to be in agriculture together, like agriculture, like the brewing, the revitalization, the revival, the grouping, it involves people.

And like, I don’t know, there’s a lot of times where farming can get really, how it felt really lonely.

And as a mother, like sometimes I think about like the mothers, the families out in like the Midwest, and I picture them in like this farmhouse, and the mom just being like, I’m out of here.

I’m going to go get a teaching job in the city because I’m so lonely.

And I think that’s part of what’s happening in agriculture as well, that a new way for a new age is that it involves togetherness where we remember, part of that great remembering, that like when our neighbor doesn’t do well in farming, like we all feel it.

Like remember, like we all remember.

I guess that’s part of like where we need to come together as well as just be thinking about how to have a system that involves the interconnectivity of all of us people and being a village again together.

It’s so beautiful. And what comes to mind for me is that the beehive itself is literally and symbolically that village, that community, isn’t it?

Yeah, exactly.

Yeah, the hyping.

They are our teachers this way.

So beautiful.

I want to dive a little more deeply into the existential crisis that honey bees are experiencing.

There’s this term colony collapse disorder that I think a lot of our audience will be familiar with.

I think so.

And I’m curious.

What do you see as the leading specific factors that is underlying this detrimental phenomenon we’re seeing at such drastic scales now?

That’s a great question.

Really, I think that I think the term colony collapse disorder wall at one point there was like a set of specific characteristics associated with it.

I think really what’s important about that notion of colony collapse disorder is that it’s indicative of a series of a suite of factors that are affecting the honey bee today.

So there’s several key factors that are contributing together to this malady that the bees are suffering.

Certainly, one of them is the parasitism of honey bees by the Veroa mite, which originated in Asia.

It was originally a parasite of a different species of honey bee.

Due to human activity and overlap of these honey bee species, it jumped ship and made a host shift to a pismolifer of the western honey bee, which is the species of honey bee that’s essentially kept by people around the world.

When the Veroa mite made this host shift, it also changed its reproductive biology to infecting the larva, the brood of the worker bees, and thus destabilize the ability for a colony to reproduce safely.

So that’s definitely a component. And how the Veroa mite affects the vitality, the health of a colony is complicated, and clearly one way that they do so is by vectoring viruses.

So we’ve seen this total upending of viral evolutionary biology where the natural tendency of a virus is to evolve towards being benign.

The longer I can live in my host, the farther my host is going to spread me.

And so most viruses tend to evolve towards being benign, perhaps even having no symptomology at all.

But the relationship of honey bee colonies from one to another and the fact that one will opportunistically feed on the resources of a failing colony means that when a colony is collapsing from Veroa mite infestation, that you then have this rapid transfer of the mites to other neighboring colonies.

So all of a sudden you have a horizontal transmission of viruses instead of a vertical transmission from parent to child.

And that creates this new evolutionary pressure towards being more and more lethal.

So that’s what we’ve seen is we’ve seen viruses that were thought of as inconsequential that are now killing colonies.

Those are certainly components of this crisis for bees, but at the core of law is another whole phenomenon which is toxicity and lack of habitat, lack of forage.

So when do we see these symptoms of CCD or when do we see these regionally unsustainable losses mushrooming up?

It’s when climate change or weather comes in and creates a situation where you have a whole region where the bees are lacking in sufficient forage.

Or for instance in the heartland where bees are trying to exist in these seas of monoculture that are just being bathed in chemicals that we know are bad for insects and all life.

And so you’re weakening the immune system of the bees, reducing their ability to access healthy food.

You’re weakening their immune system by bathing them in chemicals and then you have unsustainable parasite loads and extremely viral viruses.

And they are like this cocktail that comes together and creates these huge regional rates of losses and it’s kind of like moving around the globe at any particular time.

Like for instance last year Oregon and Washington near where we keep these had loss rates well above the national average and you know these are regions that are maybe not as intensively farmed as other parts of the country and regions that tend to have more pristine environments and yet it’s still you know a complex problem.

But that I think are those are kind of the main key factors.

Let me ask in one of the talks I attended earlier today we had a discussion around the effects of electromagnetic frequency pollution as well coming from our wireless and cellular communication are satellite internet connectivity.

I don’t know I’m not an expert in this topic I’m curious if you’re seeing that as contributing as well.

Well I know I mean we have three daughters 12 15 and 19 and like just the way that I mean it’s just so addictive for all of us humans.

Like there’s just so many different factors going on where I mean of course it’s just thinking about these small little insects these tiny bees.

Yeah you know if it’s affecting us at this large level like close to the affecting these enemies like I don’t know do you know like any specific but you could just be by scale.

Yeah yeah I love you know we’re sort of here in situ in the middle of a conference and as people are walking by there’s this energy in this excitement this experience.

I hope the audience okay for everybody is sure having these you know parties of amazing people walking by.

But yeah this convergence of all these different factors obviously is having such a profound effect on the bees and to a point you’re making earlier Eric.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a huge portion of the food that we’re dependent on is pollinated by the bees right that’s not an exaggeration.

If you if you’re hoping to eat something more than porridge or glue then you should be cherishing to be because you know dairy industry for instance not a lot of people think about milk.

But alfalfa is pollinated crop you know if alfalfa seed isn’t getting produced then alfalfa isn’t getting grown then cows aren’t being fed alfalfa then the dairy industry goes south.

You know like so their their influence is far reaching I think the statistic today is that they’re responsible for $16 billion worth of agricultural productivity in the United States annually.

Yeah well and then normally that it’s just like how dependent the the deer are the on pollination the birds are on pollination the fares are on pollination.

And then what Eric and we we tend to like to talk about quite a bit is just how honey bees really increase the carrying capacity of the land.

And that in itself is like the honey bees are like profoundly increasing just the productivity of any kind of farm scale landscape.

Especially degraded landscapes especially degraded land are turning it around yeah yeah huge regenerative yes thank you for yeah I mean their poop their their poop is like probiotic like vitamins being spread all across the landscape plus just their their dead bodies as well but they are contributing so much in the form of like I mean we’ve had a couple different

B yards where we have one in particular that we used to call Mars that was just like this rocky ground and then you put honey bent bees on the landscape and we’re growing like I mean soil grasses flowers I mean and so you can see that this isn’t just beneficial to to the to the honey base and this is beneficial to all all of the beans around it.

As a you know as a talking point like social insects aka ants bees wastes and termites account for like 80% of the insect biomass on the planet or maybe it’s even like animal biomass I know but they are foundational to the primary productivity of the land.

And it was actually just this morning Alex from spider farm and his in his discussion he was talking about how when you bring bees onto a land just their dead exoskeletons can increase ant productivity by like 40% on a site you know so we don’t even have the awareness to understand how much that affects the productivity of the land if you can increase that productivity of ants by 40% with the presence of one species

in an area that is that’s foundational like you know we are in consequence almost in consequence of the species compared to that.

It’s one of our favorite parts about being beekeepers and just even just being humans is like what is our net growth of soil we’ve accumulated in our lifetime.

You know like what have you done how much soil have you brought back to the honey bees are responsible for a lot of it.

So the literally we can think about the honey bees and the hives as spreaders of fertility.

Yes completely.

Just the pollination but literally the fertility of the soil.


Yeah enjoy as much and yeah their feces actually have lactone bifidus bacteria in them so like they’re actually seeding their environment with probiotics.


Yeah that’s tremendous.

We love it.

Like sometimes we’ll have a like a colitis and you can just see the grass all around like building up.

You know we literally move colonies into places that we’re trying to improve the soil you know and produce more soil on ground that’s lost its top soil for whatever reason mining or over productive production in ag or whatever.

We’ll bring bees into these sites and it’s like a jump start.

I mean of course you can see it in the little ring right around where the bees were where all of a sudden the grass grows.

Six inches tall and is dark green and flowers start popping up but then you start realizing that our awareness just isn’t quite capable of seeing it on the landscape but it’s happening on the landscape.

We have the pleasure of stewarding a piece of land that was hydraulic mind in the turn of the 20th century and when when we inherited the stewardship of this land.

It was still devoid of vegetation a hundred years after this destructive practice had occurred and now we’re just so ecstatic to tell people about how the honey bees the presence of honey bees and the intensive use of honey bees on this property has just jump started the regenerative process.

We now have thick grass growing alongside the roads all this ground that was devoid of vegetation is now got the plants growing on it and I mean imagine the carbon fixation that’s occurring.

We did a lot of deep listening on that land too like honey first got it we it had gone through a lot of hardship and so we kind of just had to tell right from the get go like we’re not here to hurt you like we’re not going to cut your chaser is just going to listen and now we’re really in this wonderful symbiotic relationship yeah.

Yeah I was just going to say this this keyword came up earlier today relationship and the reciprocity the respect the reverence it seems that you guys are embodying this you’re doing this on this land that you’re stewarding in such a beautiful way.

Thanks for helping others do it too yeah and then so you and you have.


Three teenage daughters, are they all teenage?

Well, they’re senior and they treat you up.

And so are they

uh and pretty engaged in this work that you’re doing?

Well, part of it, it’s been their whole life.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So if it’s not even just with they’ve been around these when they were really

little, they used to just stick their hands

and honey and kind of like walk around the farm to try to have

to these land on that.

And then they just, you know, you kind of

put them and talk to them.


So, and then they were, they’ve always just,

it’s been their way of life.

So, maybe yeah, spend more time than they would have cared

to in the back of a beach rep, but you know.

It was pretty, well, for the older she loves to talk about.


She loves to talk about smell of the beach rep.

Yeah, you know, I had in my notes to ask you about this

because I remember when I was keeping a hive,

the aroma is so, I mean, it’s like a spot, right?

It’s like a room of therapy.

It is.

All the volatile oils, especially just opening it up the hive,

that, I mean, it has all sorts of effects just on your nervous system

and then chronic respiratory illnesses to be able to like,

the smell just, it’s the, the proplice, it’s all just alive.

It’s like bioregional aroma therapy, you know.

It’s like play space aroma therapy.

Yeah, yeah, there you go.

You’re actually like reacquainting your own senses,

your own nervous system with the, you know,

with this, with the plant substances of your own space,

your own home.


I think it’s like a deepening of your body’s connection to the land

when you breathe that air.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I love it.

I’m wondering, so you guys clearly are doing so much

in the way of the direct stewardship.

And it’s one of the chapters, by the way,

that I want to ask about, has to do with managing the,

the might issue.

I’m curious to, you’re seeing this therapeutic benefit

for people broadly.

You’re, you’re thinking and cultivating community

and connection among and between people and land stewards.

I’m wondering if you were to envision, you know,

in the near term, you’re two, three, four, five years from now,

if we could wave our magic wand

and see a very different relationship

in general among the population in general

and these in particular, what would that look like?

What do you think we can see happen?

I don’t know, I love it.

I want to just soak that up.

I mean, I think for starters, like, I hold space

in my heart for a steady, like, something

that we can really wrap our minds around.

Like a steady change, an incremental change

in agricultural practices.

I think it’s just at the heart of it all.

I think a bunch of chemicals need to be banned in our country

and we could lead the way for the world, you know,

in just eliminating the use of these toxic chemicals.

And I know that that scares farmers

because they see these chemicals

as sometimes their only tools to affordably produce their products.

But I think we, as a society, need to combat that mindset.

We need to let our farmers know that we have their back

that we will absorb and accept a rising cost of production

that will accompany removing these tools

from their tool belt because we just have to do that.

Like, for all of our sake, for the waterways,

for the insects in the waterways, for the soil,

for the earthworms that are having, like, nervous system dysfunction

from the chemicals in the soil.

You know, this certainly goes beyond bees,

but these are, I know, the very little canary,

or what have you, and the bees are telling us,

like, you got to change your ways.

So, yeah, I think number one is,

we got to get rid of chemical agriculture.

And then we need to see a greater proportion of our land base

returned to natural systems.

You know, as a permaculturist, I’ve seen, you know,

I’ve seen mathematics that suggests that we could support

a population on the globe of 10 billion

with 20% of the land base.

That 80% of land base could be returned back to natural systems.

Now, would that require us to make massive changes

in our lifestyle and our standard living you bet?

Maybe we’re not going to get there tomorrow.

Maybe those austerity measures aren’t going to ever be implemented.

But do we need to start going in that direction?

Do we need to start valuing those inherent,

like, yeah, we need to value the quality of natural systems?

And what they bring to us economically,

you know, we take all these economic inputs for granted.

But the reality is, they’re not fixed.

They take maintenance by nature.

I want to kind of lean into one of the things you’re saying here

and push a little and enjoy a really want to hear from you.

I’m like, we need a magic wand.

I’m like, oh, what?




Well, let me just say this.

This notion of the austerity, I wonder if the transformation

in the human nation might not result in much higher quality

of life anyhow.

And we might be thinking right now that, oh, wow,

these are austerity measures.

We’re going to be giving so much up.

But one of the things I really wonder, especially

with modern industrial culture and society,

is how much we’re giving up right now.

I agree.

And my sense is that our sense of joy, our sense of humanness,

our sense of community, connection, health, wellness,

mental health, immune system health, all of that

might actually improve as a result of these steps

that will probably be taking one way or another.

Well, go ahead.

I did it really quick.

I’m just going to go quick.

As a response to that, the agricultural sector

is responsible for the use of a lion’s share of the resources,


And yet, how much food goes to waste, right?

Just as a feedback to what you’re saying,

if we could ever just improve efficiency here, people,

we might not have to change our lifestyle at home.

We just improve efficiency.

We just need to apply.

I mean, I’m not a technologist.

But let’s be real.

We certainly could improve the way we do things on this planet

and improve the cost of productivity so much.

So yeah, we’re even.

OK, magic wand, magic wand.

I guess part of it, for me, it’s a little bit scary to say,

but part of the magic wand is for us to respect and deliver

of what it means to have a strong local food economy.

And so what does that mean?

Am I wishing that the I-5 is going to close?

Am I wishing?

I’m not.

I’m not.

But I am saying at least for us to be doing some tests

for actually how strong we are.

How strong is a local economy?

It’s like how many times a dollar gets used in a system

without leaving the system, right?

And so right now, Amazon just increased their profit.

Like, third quarter last year was $2 billion.

Third quarter this year was $9 billion.

Like, they’re sucking money out of the local economies.

So if I were to wave my magic wand, it’s about,

it is about local producers and respecting

other, how do we create that strong local economy

and have more local producers?

Like, what is it that we actually need?

And what is it that it’s not just like, I don’t know,

like this idea of convenience that comes down the I-5?

Like, I get kind of frustrated when there’s like 50

different types of yogurt.

I’m just like, look at this idea of convenience.

It’s like packaging, distribution,

a truck to another truck to train to the truck,

to the plastic to the truck.

Like, all in this idea of 50 different types of yogurt.

And I think the other word for this idea of convenience

is actually carelessness.

Like, do we actually like, is this a mask?

Because all we really should want here

is like that one super dank type of like,

goat yogurt with the honey and it’s OG and everything about it.

Like, and so sometimes like, if I were to wave

that magic wand, it just has a lot to,

I just think we’ll be so much stronger.

We’ll be so much stronger if we could just cut out

this idea of needing only a few types of convenience.

Yeah, yeah.

And maybe somehow like raising consumer awareness

about what is quality, what is,

what is of value here, you know?

Like, you know, people are subject to,

it’s been proven advertising works.

And so all of this money is spent to beguile people

into, into desiring things that aren’t good for them

and aren’t good for the environment.

And if people could just raise their awareness,

raise their consciousness, you know,

I eat really well.

I eat such good food for my body.

And you know what, I don’t spend much money on doing it.

I just eat a really simple diet.

And I’m not asking everyone to eat the way I eat,

but, but become aware of what you’re actually,

what you’re voting for when you buy a box of Cheerios

because they’re affordable.

Like maybe,

Why is this thing so much chemical?

You could, you could have spent that same amount of money

on whatever whole rolled oats

that didn’t come in a package.

And, you know, like, I just wish that people

could spend a little more time educating themselves

on the, because it really does come down

to people voting with their dollar.

That’s how we’re gonna change our society.

But the fact is, you know, corporations,

what have you, the social economics structure

that we live in have essentially eliminated our middle class,

squeezed us all down to the point where people are desperate,

barely have enough money to subsist on.

And so they’re making these survival based choices,

but I think, unfortunately,

they don’t realize that they’re making decisions

that are not in their own best interests.

And how could we bring that back around?

Through a local economy, through awareness,

and, you know, at a level playing field, right?

Like a government that actually supports sustainability

and government that supports local economies

instead of subsidizing corporate aid.

Like, you know, the federal subsidization

of corporate agriculture is a major criminal activity

that we are all paying for with our tax dollars.

And it’s deepening the problem.

The reason why Amazon and Home Depot

and all these corporations are crushing it right now

is because our government is implementing policies

that favor large corporations over small entrepreneurs,

even those small entrepreneurs form the majority

of our economy, certainly until COVID.

So, I think we need to look at changing that back

to that, increasing that.

Well said.

Were you gonna add to that?

No, well said, that was great.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Wow, wow, yes, it’s so much to consider in all of this

from the ecology to the health and wellness to the economy.

Yeah, I love it, I absolutely love it.

Let me ask, I want to get to the mites,

just this chapter is important.

You put together specifically for tools and techniques

to help manage the situation with the mites.

Could you tell us about this?

Well, maybe we could start with just a little bit

of a summary of naturalness, beekeeping.


Don’t you think?

Sure, one of the tennis would be about…

Just as a little background, I mean mites are,

you know, public enemy number one in beekeeping.

I mean, close to second would be agrochemicals in my opinion

and habitat loss.

So habitat loss is maybe the first thing

that caused a decline in productivity of honey bees

around the world.

Agrochemicals, maybe the second thing.

And then rural mites and their potency has become

maybe the premier problem of beekeeping around the world.

So prior to the rural mites, beekeepers around the world

were probably the big, the most staunch adversary

of chemical agriculture in any agricultural sector.

Beekeepers were always…

Yeah, adversary, yeah.

So beekeepers were, you know, the most outspoken people

against chemical ag because they were the first ones

to feel the effects of chemical agbees

and chemicals don’t mix.

So beekeepers have always been organic.

Beekeepers have always been alternative, to some extent.

But when the varole mites threatened

to bring the entire industry down,

beekeepers were desperate.

And they were there…

They were literally watching their enterprise

just sift right through their hands.

And so probably against their better judgment

but out of lack of options,

they turned to the chemical industry

and the chemical industry delivered.

And you know, chemical…

It’s hard to kill a bug on a bug, you know?

And dosage and everything, that’s just, you know,

the kind of thing, a chemist loves, right?

So they’re gonna figure that out for you.

And the reality is, they did.

They figured out chemicals that could kill mites

without killing the bees and they saved the beekeeping industry

to some extent.

And the beekeepers became an unwilling,

spokesperson for the chemical industry.

And it was a really sad marriage.

But that’s the state of things, right?

So that’s what happened.

And everyone hoped, you know,

we’re about 40 years into this.

And everybody hoped that the varole mites

and the parasitic relationship of the varole mites

was gonna slowly evolve towards being more benign.

That over time, maybe,

the bees would develop their own mechanisms

to deal with the varole,

and the varole maybe would become less lethal or something.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t really seem to have been the case.

While there are a few instances where

varole populations around the world are developing mechanisms

of survival, they don’t translate very well

when it comes into beekeeping under human care

or a lack of geographic isolation.

So anyway, that’s the background story.

And the reality is, yeah, like we have to break that.

We have to develop new methods, new technologies

to use substances that aren’t toxic,

substances that aren’t just allowing our food to be poisoned

while simultaneously helping the varole mites

build up resistance to a certain chemical.

And then we have to use a harsher chemical.

And then the varole mites build up a resistance to this kind.

That’s like the treadmill that most conventional beekeepers

are on right now.

Their chemical tools are failing them.

So right now, we’re at a place where the beekeeping industry,

actually, ironically, is turning to these organic methods

because organic methods utilizing substances

that have a different mode of action,

instead of some very specific biochemical interruption

or something, they’re not substances that are that easy

for an organism to develop resistance to.

For instance, if I pour acid on you,

it’s going to take a lot of generations

for you to evolve a thicker skin.

It’s probably not going to happen.

So the reality is, these organic methods

that are non-toxic, not harmful to our food supply

are actually being employed more and more right now.

So that’s good news, is that more and more people

are realizing that chemical fixes aren’t working,

and they’re actually looking at other tools and tricks

and methods that can interrupt the varole’s ability

to breed effectively inside the colony.

So our chapter on varole mites is really

about integrated pest management.

It’s about trying to not overly rely on a substance,

but also explore the ways in which we can employ

manual manipulations of the colony,

including such things as a breaking up of the brood cycle

to eliminate the varole mites ability

to reproduce constantly in the colony

or to have this constant increase of varole mites

populations inside the hive.

If we can create little interruptions

in their growth curve, then we can kind of bring them back

down the baseline and create a situation where, you know,

the varole mites maybe is always present in the hive,

but they’re not reaching these lethal levels.

So great.

I’m curious that is by understanding the mites lifestyle

of people.

And then also integrating into that,

what we do is natural queen rearing.

Yeah, yeah.

So, yeah.

And Joy, is this the natural nest beekeeping?

Tell us, what is that?


What is that?

Well, our natural nest keeping is something

that we have kind of just developed over these years

as really being a myriad of different techniques.

It’s kind of a combination of a lot of different things

that we do.


So, when we say natural nest beekeeping,

what we’re doing is we,

it’s our way that we’ve been beekeeping.

And we’re looking at, well, first we look at kind of the

hive itself.


So, the hive itself is making sure that it’s made of

suitable sustainable materials.

And this is just like, so for us,

that is wood and wax.

But it’s also wood that is sustainably produced or harvested.

But Eric and I really enjoy it.

We enjoy knowing the wood.

We enjoy knowing where the wood comes from

and the firm city comes from.

And we enjoy the beautiful patterns it makes

in the aliveness of the wood itself.

We enjoy that it’s from where we live.

It’s not from clear cut pines.

So, that’s a big part of it too.

Pines in particular are just a pine wood.

So, she’s waterlogged over the winter.

It’s just heavy and these do cold pretty well,

but they don’t do wet.

They don’t do humidity.

And we have, you know, daughters and they’re just,

they’re just, and instead for us to go to work with

the feeder and Redwood and from farmers and firms that we know.

Standing dead wood.

Standing dead wood or even savage wood.

And then also that it’s closed cells.

So, in that case, it has an R value.

It’s not so heavy.

For insulation.

So, that’s probably the big part of it.

So, one is like, is looking at the hive itself.

Another would be, it’s just our,

using organic and biodynamic methods.

Another would be that a natural clean rearing that we really appreciate.

Well, we just, we’re like, we surrender to the,

to the mystery of life, of not knowing.

We enjoy being able to say that we don’t know which is the best egg,

which is the best clean out of this frame.

We appreciate that the bees obviously are the ones who know the best.

Yeah, we defer to the wisdom of the hive.

And the lineage of the hive and that respect as well.

Yeah, the maintenance of the lineage of the hive.

Love that.

And then, you know, well, I was just going to say,

we’ve got a couple more points.

Right there in the natural clean rearing,

there’s just sort of this,

there’s something that’s kind of cool,

which is that if you raise a clean without employing,

so, you know, the main method for clean rearing

and dissemination of queens to the industry is using a technique called grafting.

One of the upsides of grafting is that you,

you are, the product of grafting is as, as a cap cell inside of which is a pupated queen,

that you are then inserting into a queenless colony.

And it emerges into that colony within a couple days of being placed there.

And it’s a very rapid means of starting a new colony.

So, we don’t employ that technique.

The upside of not employing that technique is that

the process that we use for rearing queens is actually much slower.

And the upside of that is that from the period of time that we create a queenless colony

to that period of time when that colony has a new queen in it that’s laying,

essentially, a full month. It’s about 30 days.

And in that 30 days, a really awesome thing happens,

which is that all the brood in the colony emerges.

And there is no brood any longer in the colony prior to the new queen laying her first egg.

And that is a very simple thing that is a break in the brood cycle.

The verol light requires brood to re-infest

and they have a very limited period of time that they can move around in the colony

before they need to go and re-infest a new larva to infect and feed on.

And so, if there are none, then it results in a lot of the fertile mites,

the mature mother mites, being essentially flushed from the colony.

So, this simple thing of going back to sort of the old way of raising queens

had this inadvertent advantage that the mites don’t actually thrive under that management practice.

So, that’s a backbone of how we take care of our bees and how we manage our my populations.

Kind of both together.

Let me remind our audience, this is the YonEarth community podcast.

I’m your host, Aaron William Perry.

Today, we’re visiting with Joy and Eric McEwan,

the authors of raising resilient bees.

And you can probably tell by the background noise that we’re in the middle of a very festive and joyous

biodynamic national conference.

Here in Colorado, Westminster, Colorado, 2023, hosted by the Biodynamic Demeter Alliance.

I want to give a couple shout outs, especially to Sheila Foster.

We recently did a podcast with her.

She’s the executive director of the Biodynamic Demeter Alliance.

Of course, our friends, Brooke Levan and Stephanie Seisen have both been on the podcast

and they’re here. They gave a talk earlier today.

A friend Courtney Cosgraphe mentioned here.

Also, Scott Black from the Zercy Society looking a lot at this chemical impact on invertebrate insect populations broadly.

That’s a really important episode.

Want to be sure to give a huge shout out to Chelsea Green Publishing.

And, of course, again, raising resilient bees is a Chelsea Green publication.

And if you’re interested, you can get a 35% discount on all the Chelsea Green publications using the code Y-O-E-3-5.

So a huge shout outs, Chelsea Green.

We also want to thank Kurian Organic Superfims, Walei Waters,

the Biodynamic.

Have been used to Roman-therapy soaking salts.

We will have these tomorrow at the U.S.

Profitable Purvis Consulting, Helping Companies Get Be Certified.

First, Heroes Sustainable Products,

Soil Works, Biodynamic Garden Preparation,

Earth Coast Productions,

and, of course, our many ambassadors in our growing global ambassador network.

We want to give a special thanks to everybody who gives monthly to the Y-Earth community.

And if you haven’t yet signed up for our monthly giving program and you’d like to,

you can go to Y-Earth.org, just click on the Donate button,

select any amount that works great for you.

If you’d like to do the $33 or greater amount per month,

as a thank you gift, we’ll send you a jar or more than one,

depending on your giving level of the Walei Waters soaking salts as a thanks.

That’s in the United States that we can do that.

And we’ve got a beautiful opportunity after our main podcast to have a little behind-the-scenes chat

that gets published for our ambassadors and our ambassador resources section of the platform.

So we’ll transition to that in a moment,

but perhaps just to kind of wrap things up here with the main episode today.

I want to ask, how does bio-dynamic play into your beekeeping specifically

and your farming and land stewardship generally?

Can you paint a picture for maybe some of our audience members who might not be as familiar?

That’s a great question.

Well, for starters, bees derive their nutrition from the land.

So when we engage in spiritually scientific practices of revitalizing the land,

we are playing a part in revitalizing the land for the bees.

And as we engage in these practices in agricultural settings,

we’re creating superior forage for the bees.

But furthermore, it was really Rudolph Steiner’s lectures on the bees

that had a profound influence on our practices.

And a number of the practices that we utilize in managing our colonies

are derived from demeter’s standards.

So early on in our beekeeping, we found demeter’s standards

and realized that they resonated with us,

that we shared those as common values.

And so before we really even knew much about our interest in aligning with demeter

or what have you, it was clear that these requirements made sense.

They just, you know, specifically a foundationless brudeness

and a queen’s reared without the practice of grafting.

Those were kind of uninterrupted.

Yeah, uninterrupted, naturally constructed brudeness

and queens reared in a natural fashion by the bees themselves.

And, you know, just right there, you’re just like, yeah, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

So they were the only organization that called out those other conventions for what they were.

And organics hasn’t addressed them. No one’s addressed them.

And yet, you know, Rudolph Steiner called out the practice of grafting

as potentially destructive to the honeybees 100 years ago.

And so clearly his vision was right on the money

and demeter up holding his vision through holding these as standards

for beekeeping made it clear that this was the only organization

that really aligned with our own personal integrity as beekeepers.

Beautiful, beautiful.

And then I think another part of what biodynamics is,

it really is this whole system approach.

And so in beekeeping when you’re like, okay, I want to like start beekeeping

and get a high.

It’s like, is it really about like buying it, calling up someone and be like,

you know, most of the time bee boxes you get are from like clear cuts.

I mean, like so, or you’re going to order this, you’re going to order that.

Instead, I see kind of plastic.

And so instead, the type of beekeeping that we wanted to do was the whole system approach

and know all the components of it.

And then I also just think on a personal level too,

which was that like, like in part of like Waldorf education

and just biodynamics in general.

It’s like, it’s nurturing the whole tree,

not just one branch of the tree.

Yeah, yeah.

And that is something I’ve always really resonated with.

You have absolutely loved that metaphor.

It’s literal and it’s figurative.

Just want to say really quick that plastics.

Like we’ve always, we feel like the products of the high of our medicine, right?

They are nothing short of medicine vital for the vitality

for the essence of what it means to be human.

But you know, as organic standards became under the management of the USDA,

the whole issue of plastics got completely ignored.

So, you know, demeter are the only ones saying that plastics and honey do not belong together.

Like this is simple foundational stuff,

but it’s like as beekeepers with strong opinions on these topics,

like they’re the only people to align with

because they’re the only people calling out these, you know,

ridiculous incongruencies and other parts of the industry.

And then in the industry itself, just to be noted,

there’s plastic all over the place,

plastic brains, plastic hides.

And it really is junk.

It is stuff that just goes into landfills.

Not to mention India food and India body.


Well, this is absolutely wonderful.

And you guys, thank you so much.

And I want to be sure to mention that folks can get the books

at ChelseaGreen.com.

Again, use the code Y-O-E-35 for that discount if you’d like.

And you can connect directly with Joy and Eric at digginliven.com.

Of course, we’ll have these links in the show notes.

And on Facebook, digginliven, farm and apiaries,

and on Instagram, digginliven, bees.

And you guys, we’re going to transition to our behind-the-scenes secrets

and conclude our main podcast episode.

It’s been such an honor, a joy and a privilege to have this opportunity to visit with you.

Thanks so much.

And thank you for putting the time and effort into creating such a beautiful

and resource-rich book for everybody.

Thank you.


And I got to just say thanks to our kids,

because we needed to write it down for them,

and they got us to actually do it.


To the kids.






I know.

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