Rising out of hibernation, our Honey Bears are ready to join you at the breakfast table and have been a home staple
for over 50 years. While the practice of harvesting honey goes back to a time before the pyramids, the storing of honey in bear shaped bottles began in 1957.
Bears love honey. The beloved, bumbling, Winne the Pooh is the best example of a bear character that craves honey, but did you know that Winnie shares a Canadian connection in that a real Canadian bear inspired author A.A. Milne? Winnipeg Bear, was a black bear from White River, Ontario. Canadian soldier and veterinarian, Harry Colebourn, brought Winnipeg Bear to Europe before eventually re-homing him at a Zoo in London. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin Milne, would frequently visit Winnipeg Bear and their time there would inspire Christopher Robin to name his plush bear, Winnie. Milne would write his now iconic children’s stories based on Christopher’s toys.
For beekeepers, and bees in general, bears are a marked nuisance that remain ever vigilant in their quest for honey. In 2011, the Ontario Government launched the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program that, in addition to other functions, would compensate beekeepers in the instance that bee hives and bee hive related equipment had been damaged by eligible species of wildlife including bear, deer, raccoon and skunk. So how did a creature that is known for damaging hives become a mascot for the honey business?
Shortly after A.A. Milne released Winnie the Pooh, Ralph and Luella Gamber dreamt up the idea at a dinner party. Their story was extensively investigated by LA Times reporter, Jennifer Brown, in 1997.
“Luella Gamber had been making and packing honey at home while raising three children since her husband had bought three hives for $27 as a hobby in 1946. Ralph Gamber then sold the honey while working full-time as a salesman for Armor Meat Co.”
Jennifer Brown, Squeezable, Animal-Shaped Container Was a Honey of an Idea.
From humble beginnings, the Gamber’s would go on to grow their honey business into Dutch Gold Honey Inc. Last year, Dutch Gold Honey Inc. would succeed in doing $155.84 million in sales.
The crafty honey bear bottle that was thought up over 60 years has since inspired many other beekeepers to adapt the tradition with their own take on the bottle and a bear shaped bottle is also used at the HBRC. Our Honey Bears are packed full of honey made by bees on campus at the University of Guelph and our satellite apiaries. This spring, you can find our honey bears and other products available for online purchase with direct shipping to your home.