Thursday, September 18, 2008

The invaluable honeybee

Really excited for our beekeeping workshop which is coming up next Saturday. There is a huge interest in reviving small-scale beekeeping and bee preservation, stemming from all the recent information about the mysterious disappearance of honeybees and entire colonies of bees in North America. Given the cornerstone/keystone role that bees play in our food system (and therefore our livlihoods in general) this is an alarming situation not to be overlooked. Much research is going into the causes of bee losses, and how to develop sustainable solutions. There is a group of people talking about the possibility of setting up an urban beekeeping co-op locally, so we can all share the responsibilities of tending the bees as well as reaping the benefits of the honey.

The facilitator for the workshop next Saturday is Les Eccles from the University of Guelph Beekeeping Lab, who will speak about his research about the recent losses of bees, as well as setting up your basic first honeybee hive. He will also do a honey tasting! Honey tasting? It's true - there is an astounding variation of flavour, texture and colour to honey (not unlike wine) depending on where and when the nectar is collected. For example, in New York City where there is a thriving urban beekeeping movement, one bee farmer, David Graves, who sells his honey at a farmers market in the city, keeps 13 hives on rooftops in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx in order to get variations on flavour. Based on what different neighbourhoods have growing in their parks, community gardens and backyard gardens, he finds distinct changes in the honey from bees kept in that location (see New York City Rooftop Beelicious Honey). From his site: "So, how does NYC honey taste? Sooty? Fortunately, no:The bees sip from deep inside the blossom, beyond any grime, feeding on linden and locust trees, cover, and a range of flowers. The honey varies in character seasonally and from hive to hive. Last fall, Grave's Upper West Side honey was intensely sweet, and electric amber in hue. His Brooklyn blend was as dark and as thick as treacle. By spring, both were clear gold, with a mild, clean flavor. Graves takes pride in his truly local honey, noting that some say it helps build immunity to indigenous pollen."

There's also a whole listing of beekeepers clubs, including the Long Island Beekeepers Club whose goal is to "education beekeepers on the proper beekeeping practices for the management of honeybees in a suburban environment and the general public on the importance of honeybees and their products". Their website provides a wealth of information to new would-be beekeepers (

And here's a little honey bee trivia, to present the amazing qualities of these bees:

How fast can a honey bee fly?
15 miles per hour

How many eggs does a queen bee lay in one day?

What do honey bees do in winter?

What happens to drone (male) bees in the fall?
They are evicted out of the hive by the worker bees

How many bees are inside the hive during honey season?

How long does a worker bee live in the spring/summer?
4 weeks

How much nectar can a honey bee collect in one flight?
1 eyedropper full

How far does a honey bee fly to give us one pound of honey?
55,000 miles

How much honey (fuel) would it take for a honey bee to fly around the world?
2 Tbsp

What is the average yield of 2 beehives in Canada or the US?
150 lbs of honey

No comments:

Post a Comment