Wildwood Produce with IIa Hatter

Wildwood Produce with IIa Hatter

Ila Hatter introduces us to some folks who know how to take advantage of what’s available in the wild that can make for some good eating.

Arnold Crisp shows Ila how he finds a colony of wild bees so he can either gather the honey or move the colony to a new hive near his home. First he sets out bait to attract honeybees; then he watches carefully to see which way they go when they leave. He follows their trail, which will eventually lead to the hive, but as Ila finds out, it can be quite an adventure getting there.

Col. Richard Stewart has kept bees nearly all his life, and his domestic bees make so much honey each year that he can sell a little to friends. Ila asks both bee experts their opinion on a continuing controversy: is there such a thing as sourwood honey? The answers might surprise you!

Mushrooms are another wild treat found all over the Appalachian mountains. But this is one item that dictates caution and the need for expert advice. While poisonous ones are fairly rare, they can often look very much like edible ones, so mushroom pickers should get some help when gathering.

Alan Muskat, known as the “Mushroom Man,” takes Ila on a gathering expedition to sample some of the common varieties easily found. Then he cooks up a batch for lunch.

Ila also visits Dr. David Ramsey on his mushroom “farm,” where shitake mushrooms are grown for commercial sale, a growing practice as the market demand for fresh mushrooms continues to expand.
Bees as Environmental Indicators

Besides producing honey, bees provide many useful services, including their use as environmental indicators. In 2003, a group of scientists in Bologna, Italy published their research on bees’ sensitivity to pesticides. Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk from the University of Montana published conclusions in 1994 in Beekeeping in New Zealand that “bees sample contaminants in all forms—gaseous, liquid, particulate—and can detect chemicals in their surroundings at levels often difficult, if not impossible, to detect using more conventional approaches.” In other words, when other testing methods failed to detect pesticides in crops, scientists would find entire groups of dead bees.

In the 2003 study, bees died after being exposed to low levels of pesticides that were either illegally or improperly administered. In fact, studies show that levels were detected not only in the bees themselves, but also in the pollen and wax. Bees seem to tend to bring the contaminants from the pollen back into the hive, infecting the entire colony.

Ironically, however, toxins are vastly diminished in the honey. In many tests, even though wax and pollen contained high levels of contaminants, the honey usually contained the same or lower amounts of contaminants. Therefore, Dr. Bromenshenk concludes, “Even when contaminated, honey is as good or better than most food products.”


Claudio Porrini, Anna Gloria Sabatini, Stefano Girotti, Fabiana Fini, Lorenzo Monaco, Giorgio Celli, Laura Bortolotti, Severino Ghini, “The death of honey bees and environmental pollution by pesticides: the honey bees as biological indicators.” Bulletin of Insectology 56 (1): 147-152: 2003.

Florida Extension Beekeeping Newsletter, Apicultural Information and Issues, Volume 12, Number 5, May 1994. Cited in Beekeeping in New Zealand.

Wildwood Produce Resources

Wild Mushrooms and Poisoning
A detailed explanation of symptoms of eating poisonous mushrooms, what to do if someone has ingested a poisonous mushroom, and a list of poisonous mushrooms in North Carolina.

The Honeybee
Everything you wanted to know about the honeybee, including some information on killer bees.

Urban Horticulture
Information on home and commercial horticulture, specific to North Carolina, part of the Cooperative Extension Service.

NOVA: Tales from the Hive
Originally broadcast in 2000, this NOVA episode filmed inside a hive and followed bees in flight to capture close-ups of honeybee behavior.