Queen Bee: How One Woman-Frustrated with the 9-5-Funneled Her Creative Instincts into a Passion for Beekeeping

By Evans, Julie | The Saturday Evening Post, January-February 2012 | Go to article overview

Queen Bee: How One Woman-Frustrated with the 9-5-Funneled Her Creative Instincts into a Passion for Beekeeping


Evans, Julie, The Saturday Evening Post


IN 1999 MARINA MARCHESE quit her job as creative designer for a small giftware company in New York City and settled into a more rustic routine at her little red cottage in Weston, Connecticut. Tired of commuting into the city and passionate about her new backyard beekeeping hobby, Marina decided to start a business based on her bees and the delicious honey they produced. With only limited savings, the artistic and free-spirited Marina worked odd jobs in catering and dog sitting to help pay the bills while she tended her first few hives.

Marina, then 37, was still a "newbee," as novice beekeepers are known. But she wanted to be the queen bee, so she studied every aspect of this industrious insect, from its fascinating social life inside the hive to the many varieties of honey it was capable of producing. She attended meetings at local beekeeper clubs and even traveled to England and Italy where honey tasting is on par with wine tasting.

It's safe to say that artisanal beekeepers like Marina go to extremes, but the honey they produce is a far cry from the kind that you buy in a plastic--molded teddy bear bottle. Artisanal honey making emphasizes quality and character over quantity and consistency. To produce the finest honey, beekeepers become micromanagers of their honeybees, scouting optimal field locations, knowing when nectar flow begins, and selecting the best ways to extract honey when the season is done.

Beekeeping may seem like a dramatic departure from a career in design, but the passion and creativity Marina brought to her business were nothing new. Growing up, she knew she wanted to create art, but spent her childhood rebelling against parents who didn't support her artistic nature. "I was this creative kid growing up in a corporate family," Marina says. "My mother was always pushing me to go to college to study business. Creativity just wasn't nurtured, and it certainly wasn't treasured.

"As a kid I always doodled-and I always got in trouble. I doodled in cookbooks, on the walls, in the closet, and behind doors where my parents wouldn't see it. I remember soaking in the tub as my grandma scrubbed ink off my legs because I doodled all over my body."

A series of seemingly unconnected events brought Marina to beekeeping. In the late 1990s a neighbor saw her illustrations of bee characters--including a sassy queen bee--and invited Marina to check out his backyard hive of Italian honeybees. Unsure at first, Marina put on the beekeeper's hat and veil and watched as her neighbor opened the hives. "I was mesmerized," she says. "The bees were so well-behaved, but I kept thinking they were going to swarm and sting. That day I tasted fresh honey and was smitten."

She bought her first hive through mail order and tended bees on weekends. During the week she took the train to her job in the city. Some days she would cry because she was so unhappy with her job and the commute. One day Marina pulled a paperback novel, The Beekeepers Apprentice, from the borrowing rack at the train station. She took this accidental find as a sign that beekeeping was going to play a much larger role in her life. …

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