Bird and the Bee founder Elizabeth Vernon learned to keep bees at a nearby community garden when a beekeeper visited and offered to take her on as an apprentice. After working with several beekeeping mentors and taking on multiple internships in upstate New York, Maine, Jamaica and the West Indies, it was apparent Elizabeth had found her purpose.
Today, Vernon is known as “Queen Bee” to everyone she meets and has been an apiarist for nearly 10 years. Also a certified massage therapist with a degree in Eastern Medicine, she’s living her dream by combining her two passions: healing and beekeeping.
Back home in Northern New Jersey, when Elizabeth isn’t breeding Ayam Cemanis, a beautiful rare chicken from Indonesia, she keeps busy infusing botanicals like cannabis into honey with her Magical Butter machine. Adding cannabis to honey creates a powerful and healthy natural remedy, since both are known to have healing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabis-infused honey can be used topically or ingested—depending on the desired effects.
Fascinated by the Queen Bee and the healing magic of cannabis-infused honey, High Times and Magical Butter sat down with Elizabeth Vernon to learn what the buzz is all about.
High Times: Tell us about your experience working with bees!
Elizabeth Vernon: Working with bees isn’t like work at all. It’s learning to communicate with another species. Bees are highly intelligent and in many ways superior to humans. Working with bees is one of the most gratifying and challenging positions I’ve ever encountered. Keeping honey bees is a big responsibility. I learn something new every day.
Elizabeth Vernon in her beekeeping suit.
HT: Instead of fear, how can humans better relate to bees?
EV: Honey bees work effectively and efficiently. Each bee has a specific role based on its age. As it gets older, job responsibilities change. When you see how much such little beings get done in a short time, it leaves you in awe. The interconnectedness of the hive demonstrates how we as a society can achieve the impossible by working together.
HT: What are the benefits of infusing cannabis and other botanicals into honey?
EV: Infusing honey has been practiced for over 3,000 years. Honey is an extremely versatile base with a large number of healing properties. Adding different herbs and blends of herbs can create a powerful combination that can prevent and fight illness and diseases in the body.
HT: When you infuse your honey with herbs, do you feed them to the bees?
EV: I don’t feed anything to the bees. I allow them to take care of themselves as they naturally do. Infusion always takes place after harvesting the honey. You could start with a clover or alfalfa based honey before your infusion, since bees often harvest with specific flowers or herbs.
HT: How can people infuse honey at home?
EV: There are many videos and recipes online, like this one for Magical Honey. I have tried so many different methods and talked to so many people about what they do. I’ve found the best practice with crafting anything is to find your own balance, do research, and figure out what works best for you. There are so many different variables to consider. Are you working with fresh ingredients or dry? Are you planning a cold infusion or warm infusion? What season is it? Honey is always best to work with when the temperature is warmer. I’ve also found that using the MagicalButter machine saves so much time and energy.
HT: What are some tips for those new to infusing honey?
EV: Honey can’t bind to cannabis, and honey can’t be made into cannabis-infused honey from the bees themselves. The best way I have found is to make a tincture and to add it to the honey. Some people infuse their honey with the herbs. I feel that works with almost everything, except cannabis. Without any fat, it doesn’t have anything to bind to. Adding infused coconut oil with the tincture has been working amazing for me.
HT; In addition to eating honey, it’s a popular ingredient in shampoos and other topicals. Do you have a recipe for a cannabis-infused honey topical you’d like to share?
EV: Just honey. Real unadulterated honey. By itself, on your face, is amazing. I believe that less is more. I sometimes add lemon juice, but only in the winter. If you apply lemon to your skin while sitting in the sun, it will give you spots, so be aware of that.
HT: What other types of products do you make with honey, wax, the hive, etc.?
EV: I make body scrubs, lip balms, body butters, lotions, salves, tooth tincture, beard oil, face masks, soaps, tick spray and candles. When it comes to the honey, I bottle all different types and infusions.
HT: Tell us about your business, Bird and the Bee.
EV: Bird and the Bee is an extension of QueenBee Apiaries. This has been my company for the last six years. Now that we have added raising heritage and exotic breed chickens, we’ve relaunched with a new name that encompasses all that we are doing.
I also love the idea that Bird and the Bee represents so much more. Our products are safe for everything from birds to bees to kids and all other animals. We source everything locally, and if we can’t acquire something locally, we source it from reputable companies that are in line with our mission, methods and practices. Our number one priority is setting the example that natural products can be made with integrity and quality. In addition to our products, we have our non-profit The Honey Bee Project where we provide workshops and any other educational needs to the public.