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Carolina Bound

September 21, 2019

This week, Carissa is in North Carolina visiting our beekeeper, Jim Dempster, and of course, the honey bees! Well, not the bees. Our bees.

Our bees!

As testing ramps up and becomes more complicated, it’s difficult to express everything we need and get a real sense of results without being there to see it in person. The entire project can rest on something as small as the texture of the fondant or the color of a bowl. These tests are the first, critical step in determining if our theoretical solution works in the real world. So Carissa...

You know, it might be time to mention that Carissa is allergic to bees. Badly. But she wanted to go. To the place where the bees are. How did we ever find someone so brave?


So she’s been on hand to help administer our first full fondant study. Here’s how it works:

Carissa and Jim placed 25 fondants, with different concentrations of our core essential oils, out for the bees. The 25 samples and 1 control were evenly spaced on 6-foot boards.

full setup

The full setup, 10:00 AM

 At 11 AM, they uncovered them all as quickly as possible, to make sure the timing was synchronized. Immediately, they noticed that the peppermint and lemongrass fondants were the most popular with the bees.

That’s the kind of data that makes our hearts soar. Real, solid preference for one oil over another.

lemongrass station 7

Alright, there’s enough for everyone. Don’t crowd.

Later, bees started venturing over to other types of fondant, like low-concentration thyme. Spearmint, surprisingly, had very few bee visitors at all.

At around 3, they tried swapping out the most active bowl of peppermint with a less active thyme sample, to see if it was location and not taste that was making the difference. The bees followed, still mostly ignoring the thyme.

Peppermint is THE BUSINESS.


Science is a funny business. Absolutely painstaking and certainly tedious, but incredibly exciting. For 5 hours, Jim and Carissa checked each of these 26 bowls, writing down their observations and photographing any changes.

jim is collecting test information

They left the fondant out overnight, so they could check in the morning for any decrease in volume and see if the overnight temperature shifts had any impact on the texture.

Oh, and they also prepped and placed mite sheets on all 5 of Jim’s hives. The sheets remain for 24 hours to collect mite drop and give us an idea of the level of mite infestation in the hives.


bees on peppermint

Oh no.

In the morning, they found that overnight the fondant had gotten so sticky that the bees had become...lodged in it. And that was a hard thing for them to see, and for us back here at HQ to see.

This is the first time any of us have had so much time and emotion invested in wild things. And we’ve grown so attached to them in the past few months of testing. To see even a few die isn’t easy, but we know that’s what will happen over and over as we hone our plan and find the best method to save them.

And that’s not all.

When they checked the mite boards, they found 4 out of the 5 hives had some level of infestation with mites and beetles, and where there’s infestation in one (or in this case 4), it’ll quickly spread to others, which is exactly what our product is trying to retard.

beekeeper inspecting bees

They opened a few drone larvae caps, and found them infested, too.

Warning: Horrible.

varroa mites

That’s scary. It’s sad. But it’s also galvanizing, because it reminds us in hideous, crawly detail of what we’re fighting.

It was an eventful two days.