Saturday, August 22, 2015

Honeybees And Their “Pure” Product

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Honey has been around since the beginning of time, I guess. The Bible makes multiple references to it being good to eat. I certainly agree. I had four hives at one point, many years ago, and enjoyed the hobby, and the product. I ate a fair amount of the stuff, back when I had my own bees, and drank a little too, as mead (honey wine). I didn’t go for the light, popular honeys like clover, sourwood or buckwheat. No, I liked the dark, bold stuff from the fall flow. The goldenrods, wing-stems, sun chokes, asters, iron weeds, Joe Pye weeds and so on created a delicious mix of dark, spicy honey that was right up my alley. To this day, I think of all that wonderful honey when I see the fall blossoms.

Each hive has its own personality, by the way. I suppose it reflects the personality of the queen. Two of my hives were moderately friendly, yet would keep you on your toes if you took them for granted. It wasn’t wise to work them without suiting up. Another hive, though, was as friendly as an old dog. I could work them using little or no smoke and wearing a t-shirt. The fourth hive, however, must have had a queen that was at war with the world. They swarmed out at the slightest provocation to destroy whatever was causing them concern. Usually, that was me. No amount of smoke or tight suiting would prevent me from getting at least one sting when I worked “the hive from Hell.” It was my most productive hive, or I might have done away with it.

A lot of folks don’t realize that honeybees aren’t native to this continent. Some Indians called them “white man’s flies” when they first started showing up in their world. If you think about it, any fruit or vegetable that originated with the Indians did so without honeybees. Considering the decline in bee numbers, due to agricultural chemicals, it might be wise to concentrate on such varieties in your gardening and seed saving.
At the gas station the other day, the honeybees were swarming the trash can something fierce. I could only assume that somebody had poured their soft drink in the thing. I expect yellow-jackets to be a nuisance at such places, but I hadn’t thought about honeybees. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, considering that I used to keep the little buggars. Beekeepers sometimes feed their bees sugar-water to get a new hive started, or to help a hive through the winter that was robbed a bit too aggressively in the fall. I suppose a little flavor with their sugar might be a good thing for them. I then had to wonder: would they use the stuff only to eat and feed the drones, or would they make honey from their trash can find? I suspect some of it will find its way into their product. After all, “honey-dew honey” is much sought after in Europe, and it’s made from what aphids leave behind! See this link for more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeydew_(secretion)

My wife’s grandfather always kept bees and constantly had a big bowl of honey sitting on the table. Her dad wouldn’t eat it, though, since it was a common sight to see honeybees in the “downstairs” of the outhouse, or crawling on a manure pile. The consensus was that bees needed a certain amount of salt, so the old fellow was one of those who left salt out for his bees, to prevent them from gathering it at less approved places. There’s still some disagreement on the need for salt, with the anti-salt folks saying that the bees don’t live as long if they get it, while some “salters” espouse sea salt, saying the minerals are, perhaps, more important than the salt itself.

Something else I’ll mention is that the preformed foundation used by beekeepers has slightly larger cell size than what is natural. I think that’s so the bees will spend less time making wax and so the honey will extract better in the machines. A result is that the bees raise replacements to a larger size when the eggs are laid in the cell, rather than its being used to store honey. I can’t help but think that would slightly limit the species of flowers used by the larger bees for gathering nectar.

In its natural state, honey contains a little pollen and some propolis (bee-made hive glue). For better or worse, most of the honey you’ll find in a store has been ultra-filtered. As a result, it has none of these things that supposedly make it a healthy additive to a person’s diet. Leave it up to the food industry to take something that’s good for you and turn it into empty calories. That’s a good reason to buy your honey straight from the farmer.

SO, knowing what I do about honey, do I still eat it? Dern tootin’ I do! I got a tad hungry as I typed this up at three in the morning, so I went downstairs and fixed me a butter and honey sandwich on multi-grain bread. YUM! © 2015
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8 comments:

Crystal Mary said...

I love honey, but never realised that bee's went into nasty places to eat.. YUK! Honey is such a pure food and can heal many problems so I would say that bees know how to detox the bad into the good.

I have released my next book and written of it on my Blog....it will be a surprise to many and healing to me. I may put it onto my FB page, but cannot place my name on it, so I have used my grandmothers. I was very close to her when very small so I feel she would smile.

Chickenmom said...

Dark honey is the best! Lots of local honey is sold here and it is delicious, too. Don't care for the flavored ones, though - natural is the best.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

We get ours from a local source. I have another jar in the cupboard. We have the hives but need to rework them (given to us by a neighbor). Maybe next year.

Ralph Goff said...

Interesting story on one of my favourite foods. I buy it by the gallon pail from local producers in Sask. I don't know how the bees are doing but wasps are thriving here this year.

Gail said...

Bees are a magnificent animal. We had them for years until they started spraying the power lines to kill the foliage. We run them off when we can catch them but it appears this year my husband did not catch them in time.

We are very low on pollinators at this moment and that scares me to death!

Have a great weekend.

Pumice said...

My son tries to get local honey because he says that the pollen you mentioned has a way of helping allergy responses during the pollen season. Non-local has the wrong pollen.

Grace and peace.

Sixbears said...

I once picked up some swamp honey makde from Florida's swamp flowers. Never quite got used to the taste. I've got a lot of honey bees in my yard this year. Pretty sure I know where they are coming from. Only wish the farmer wouldn't keep selling out! Hard to beat the local stuff.

Gorges Smythe said...

Crystal, I figure if the Lord says it's good, it's good. Hope your book sells well.

I couldn't agree more, Cm!

Watch out for wax moths in those old hives, Kathy.

lol - I think wasps thrive MOST years, Ralph!

Gail, you might try making some of the little bee houses to attract the other pollinating bees.

He's right, Pumice.

Swamp honey, eh? Ya gotta wonder what all would be in it, Sixbears.