Curt Poling avoided bees his entire life after getting attacked at age 4. Then, in 2018, all of that changed when he had the divine inspiration to start keeping bees. His passion for beekeeping led him to an apiary on the Big Island in Hawaii, where he learned the craft. Now, Poling and his wife, Allison, run The Blessed Bee Co., a Waterloo, Illinois-based company devoted to keeping bees the natural way. In addition to several flavors of honey, Blessed Bee crafts organic value-added products, including beeswax-based lip balm and salves that are available at shops and restaurants across the region.
How did you get started with beekeeping? I never liked bees. I had a poor experience as a child at the age of 4 when a bunch of bumblebees attacked me when I was checking out their nest from a distance. A God-inspired thing happened in late 2018 when the passion for beekeeping literally came out of nowhere. It truly opened my eyes to so much. A veteran beekeeper in Illinois gave us our first five hives. In 2019, an apiary on the Big Island of Hawaii invited me to learn about beekeeping. I stayed in the jungle for four and a half weeks. I learned how to treat hives organically.
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What got you interested in selling honey? I was involved in a barbecue community in Rolla, Missouri, and I used to make my own rub with ghost peppers. My friends said the rub was too hot. One day, we were smoking ribs, and I thought, ‘I’m going to try something.’ When the ribs got to a certain temperature, I opened them and drizzled honey on top and then wrapped them back up in foil. When we bit into the ribs, we could immediately tell this was a match made in heaven and we were on to something.
Walk us through your current product line. We have six varieties of spicy honeys, ranked from lowest to highest in heat: Scorpion Sting, Sweet Jolokia, The Reaper’s Edge, Floral Explosion, Hawaiian Twister and Volcano Blossom. We have an Illinois Wildflower Honey and a Missouri Wildflower Honey, as well as a lavender-infused honey, a honey spread, several hand salves and lip balm.
How are your honeys informed by your surroundings? We have beehives in several locations, including St. Clair, Foristell and Kirkwood, Missouri, as well as Fairview Heights Millstadt, Waterloo and Maeystown, Illinois. The honey from each place has a slightly different flavor because of the floral sources that bees bring pollen and nectar from. Our most popular honey is from hives out toward Freeburg and Millstadt, Illinois. Everyone loves it!
What restaurants use your honey? Hopskeller in Waterloo, Illinois, uses our Scorpion Sting Honey. Scruff’s Grill and American Taco in Rolla use our Sweet Jolokia Honey. Clara B’s Kitchen Table in Belleville, Illinois, uses our Scorpion Sting Honey. Commonwealth Restaurant and ART Bar at the Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis also use our honey.
Where can you buy your honey and other products? You can find our products at Crafted in the Loo in Waterloo; the Kirkwood Farmers’ Market; The Annex in Webster Groves; Millstadt IGA; Redbud IGA; Schubert’s Smokehouse in Millstadt; Rae and James in Millstadt; Scharf Farm in Millstadt; Harvest Market in Columbia, Illinois; Pine Mountain Coffee in Festus; and Local Lucy’s and Pour @322 in Belleville, Illinois.
Why did you want to branch into skincare products? We wanted to offer something that was all-natural using beeswax.
What are some of your most exciting plans for the honey? We’re going to plant buckwheat in an area of a farm in Rockbridge, Illinois, and use that to create buckwheat honey. There’s a good market for this honey. The honey is more like molasses and has a nice flavor to it.
The Blessed Bee Co., facebook.com/theblessedbeehoneycompany