Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to blog about bees and beekeeping! I must confess, I’ve never blogged before, but it should be fun telling you about the wonderful world of the honeybee. I’m very enthusiastic about these little ladies and, as you get to know me, you’ll understand why. But here’s a little bit of past history:
Here in the original Down East they call me “The Bee Lady,” but you might call me the “accidental beekeeper,” because I had no intention of becoming so involved with these sweet golden buzzers — I was a gardener first and foremost but found when I moved here from New Jersey, by way of the Turks and Caicos Islands (that’s a story for another time) there were no pollinators for my squash! The sad little squashettes were just withering on the vine! The thought of hand-pollinating gave me shivers, so I figured, “What the heck. Get a couple of hives.” Well, let me tell you, these little girls are addictive! Once you take a peek into the workings of a hive, you’re hooked.
Bees and beekeeping have become my Crusade, and it is on that note I hope to seduce you into the world of the honeybee. To pique your curiosity about these lovely ladies, let me give you a few honeybee facts:
Did you know that honeybees are not native to the US? English colonists brought German bees, or "dark bees," to the New World in 1621. And in colonial NC taxes could be paid using beeswax!
The average colony contains between 30,000 and 60,000 bees: one queen, a few hundred drones, and the rest workers. While a queen can live as long as 5 years, a worker bee will work herself to death in 45 days. She can fly as far as 3 miles and at speeds up to 15 mph (a 4-minute mile!). In her lifetime, the average honeybee visits at least 650 flowers and produces only ½ tsp of honey! So, if you dip honey with a spoon and don’t lick the spoon, some poor honeybee’s lifetime production is for naught!
You should know, too, that honey is one of the safest foods in the marketplace. It has many qualities that resist or reduce bacterial contamination. It is very important to never refrigerate honey! It will crystallize and you’ll think it’s gone bad (it hasn’t. . .you can restore it by placing the jar in a pot of hot water for a couple of minutes—or better yet, just put it on your dashboard in the sun for a day). The best way to store honey for a period of less than a year is at room temperature. For longer periods (who has honey for more than a year?), freeze it.
As for pollination, did you know that it takes 12-18 honeybee visits to a cucumber blossom during a 15-hr period to produce a well-shaped cucumber? I gotta tell you, these girls have their work cut out for them!
So far I’ve given you the good news. But you all know there’s bad news, too. Honeybees—and all pollinators—are having a dickens of a time lately. Losses of thirty percent are not uncommon and I—for the first time in many years—lost hives over this past winter and then had trouble re-queening this spring!
The possible reasons are many and I plan to cover all the possibilities in future blogs. But to sum up, beekeeping is a fascinating hobby, and we need more beekeepers if we plan on keeping the world in good nutritious food. I hope this bit of trivia has whetted your appetite to know more about our honeybees and maybe start keeping your own hives! If that’s the direction you’re going, I’ll be happy to help you along the way. And if you’re just here to help the honeybee, Welcome! We all need to work together. Hope we get to bee good friends.