“Mind your own beeswax” and “none of your beeswax,” although not phrases that most adults generally say every day, are common idioms used to tell others not to stick their nose in one’s private affairs. But for others like Stefano Briguglio, sticking his nose and hand in one’s affairs is literally part of his business.
Briguglio, owner of Azure B Apiaries, isn’t just a honey bee removal specialist by trade. He specializes in beekeeping and has served as superintendent of the honey and beeswax department for the annual Charles County Fair since 2016.
“It’s more about putting forth something that you feel good about,” Briguglio said in a phone interview on Monday. “The youngest I would say are teenagers and then for the oldest, we have some people that enter every year who are up in their 60s. Those are some of the folks who take it really, really seriously.”
The county fair has added several new categories to the honey and beeswax department in past years including finely granulated honey, rolled beeswax candles, propolis, photography and an organizational display. Propolis, another new category, is a resinous substance that bees produce to use as a sealant in their hives which humans have found multiple uses for, according to Briguglio.
Briguglio said the best thing about his department is that a good mixture of people, including adults and children, are rediscovering all the things that can be done with honey and beeswax.
“Honey has a lot of different kinds of complex sugars and wax is lipid based,” Briguglio explained. “Similar to Amish folks who would make soaps and candles out of fat and lard, the bees make their honeycomb and nests out of the wax. If you were to purchase beeswax, it has a higher monetary value than honey just because of the energy input that goes into it. I do sell quite a bit of beeswax for considerably more than I sell honey.”
According to California, Md., resident Greg Carey, who is Briguglio’s assistant, honey is the most well-known product of beehives.
“It’s a very interesting pursuit,” Carey told the Maryland Independent back in 2017. “[Bees will] collect resin from the local plants and bring it back to the hive where they’ll mix it with beeswax and secretions from their glands. They use it to fill in any cracks or crevices in the hive to help keep parasites out.”
Carey said his interest in beekeeping is a matter of personal business rather than commercial.
“I find it very interesting the way [bees] interact with each other and how they’re interdependent on each other. A single bee alone cannot survive long,” he said. “My main purpose in the production of honey is that it tastes good, and it does taste good.”
Briguglio said the ancient art of beekeeping is making a comeback. Products from honeybees’ labor will be put on display again this year at the 96th annual county fair, taking place this week, beginning on Thursday. All entries, which must be submitted without an exhibitor’s name or label, will be received on today from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“With honey, we test for moisture content and we test for the appearance,” said Briguglio, emphasizing that he uses a certified honey judge from Gaithersburg-based Maryland Honey Company to help with entries. “The container that it’s in, there’s a requirement for that. It can’t just be in some random jar. It has to be in a certain approved honey jar. We also take into the consideration of the level in which the jar is filled and check the clarity of the honey — that there’s no debris, pieces of pollen, an antenna or anything else tampering it.”
General rules for entries, according to the county fair guide, is that all honey and beeswax must be the property of the exhibitor and produced within the 15-month period prior to entry. All honey exhibited must have been gathered and ripened in a natural way by honeybees.
The superintendent, at the time of entry, will determine which one of six color classes that extracted honey samples fall under.
First, second and third place winners will be given a blue, red and white ribbon, respectively, for whichever category they enter.
Best of Show Rosettes will be awarded by the judge for the best overall exhibit in the honey category for classes 1-12, and for the best overall exhibit in all the other categories which include classes 13-31, according to the fair guide.
“It is kind of a competition but it’s more about making honey and beeswax look their best, and just giving it a good image all around of what it should or can be,” Briguglio said. “Not so much that ‘mine is better than the next person’s.’ It’s about aspiring for excellence. … Just follow the requirements and do the best you can.”