While working on an MBA in Arizona in 1974, Freddie Terry met an old beekeeper nearing retirement and no longer able to care for his labor intensive hives. They made an agreement – the man would teach Terry the basics of beekeeping and hive management and in return, Freddie would take on the heavy lifting of the business. When in 1975 he was ready for his own hives, Terry went to the local fire and police departments and told them that if they received any calls about bee swarms, to give him a ring and he would pick them up. That first year he caught 11 swarms, of which 7 survived. Within 3 years he had put a doctorate aside and was thoroughly entrenched in his life as a beekeeper, with 125 colonies and a small but thriving business selling organic honey and honeycomb, beeswax candles, bee pollen, and propolis.
At that time, he moved his bees back and forth between what he calls “town” – larger more populated areas – and the Sonoran desert to expose them to different food sources. In the early 90’s he began to realize that the more populated areas near any agriculture were bad for his bees – the increased use of neonicotinoids as crop insecticides has devastating effects on bee colonies. These chemicals were developed after the Second World War to replace spray insecticides and work by coating the seeds of plants. When the plant grows, the toxin can be found in every part of it, including any nectar or pollen. Terry moved his bees further out into the lands of the Sonoran desert, one of the most abundant and pollen rich deserts in the world, far away from urban and agricultural areas. A committed purist, he began studying the advances that other countries were making in producing chemical-free honey and remains devoted (and fiery when the subject comes up) to educating people about the dangers of agricultural herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Over the years Freddie’s beeswax has remained as pure as it was in those days and is certified by the USDA as clean and free of toxins, an increasingly rare thing to find when it comes to beekeepers and honey.
About 15 years ago, Freddie added to his bee repertoire and developed an organic skin cream for his sister who was suffering with eczema and had tried all kinds of pharmaceuticals without success. “Honey is nature’s best antiseptic,” Terry often says and he’s not alone in his thinking. Honey can be traced as a source of food and medicine all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. It is antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, and there is evidence that it has an inhibitory effect on approximately 60 species of bacteria, some species of fungi and even viruses.
Ancient Roman beehives, Malta
Both ancient and modern cultures have recognized these properties – ancient Egyptians used honey in topical salves to heal wounds, ancient Greeks used it to prevent and treat scars, according to texts of Ayurveda from the Vedic Civilization honey was used to treat wounds and sores and was especially effective in the healing of burns and carbuncles, and the Russians used honey during WWI to prevent wound infection and accelerate healing.
Knowing this long history, Terry created a rich, creamy, unperfumed lotion with an earthy, natural scent that is effective for all manner of skin conditions. A blend of his organic and clean beeswax and propolis, organic olive oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter, the lotion is on our everyday must-haves list and when the idea came up to talk about our “top shelf” we knew who we had to track down. It’s the bomb balm for intensely dry hands, cuticles, feet, and lips, and a healing salve for scars, scrapes, and almost any skin condition (Freddie even has a mercifully short story about a friend's anal fissure that we won’t relay here…suffice it to say his cream was put to effective use).
Fred Terry in the 2012 Swiss documentary by Markus Imhoof More Than Honey – a look at honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China, and Austria.