Kraus Honey Company : Fruitland
In the northeast corner of Washington, Kraus honeybees create a rich, golden honey that combines the flavors of vetch, sweet clover, fireweed, snowberry, and big leaf maple. This creates a rich, fragrant honey that is a compliment to nearly every food imaginable. Drizzling can a problem: this area of Northeast Washington, near where the Colombia and Spokane Rivers meet, is very dry. The nectar collected by the bees have a very low water content. The resulting honey is so thick you can put it on a fork and walk across the room with it. The mix of flowers in this region, the Okanagan Highlands changes yearly. No pesticides or antibiotics are used in the hives.
John and Martha Kraus are the Kraus Honey Company.
John’s first foray into beekeeping was in the 1970’s with a few backyard hives. His fascination with bees lead to more and more hives; by the mid-1990’s he and Martha had over 600 hives. They found that to be a manageable number and today maintain nearly 1,000 hives queened by a mixture of Survivor Queens from “Old Sol” in Oregon and Hawaiian Kona Queens.
Martha married into the world of bees. “It was charming when we met. John had 100 hives, or so. I would never have guessed I would be spending my life with bees, but it’s good.” Martha extracts and sells honey while John works with the bees.
“John just loves the bees and is really a good beekeeper. He’s a really independent guy; he has to work for himself. It suits him that way,” Martha explains. “Beekeeping can be intense and focus, other times of year we have time to do other things.”
The “intense” times include the movement of the bees for pollination. February finds them in California’s almond groves. They then move to The Dalles for cherries; then on to Bruster and Bridgport for apples and other fruit. As summer progresses, they settle in Washington’s Columbia River Valley where in 2013 the snowberry blooms overtook the usual mix of vetch, sweet clover, fireweed, and “millions of little wildflowers.”
“I like the depth of complexity of the bees lives,” says Martha. “Research keeps showing more and more interesting things: their community, communication, and social structure. They are a cooperative: a single entity that exists as many bees.”