Saturday, March 19, 2011

Honeybee Part II


You can thank pollinators for one out of every three bites of food you eat!  The bee anatomy is well suited for carrying pollen.  In search of nectar in the flower, the Honeybee brushes against the sticky stigma (female part of the flower) leaving pollen grains (from the male part of the flower) from previously visited blossoms.
Honeybees tend to forage on blooms of the same kind when finding a nectar source and this results in unique flavors of local honey such as clover, tulip popular, sourwood, orange blossom, lavender or whatever is characteristic of a particular area.  Local honey is incredibly good for allergy sufferers because it is made from the flowers (therefore pollen) that are indigenous to their area.

Local honey has many holistic medicinal qualities:
·      Relieves asthma/bronchitis
·      Promotes restful sleep
·      Relieves indigestion
·      Replenishes energy
·      Enhances physical stamina
·      Boosts the immune system
·      Has natural antibiotic properties  (can be spread on skin wound or abrasion and covered with bandage)

About 90 crops in the US depend upon Honeybee pollination, the largest of which is the almond groves in California.  Sixty percent of fruits and vegetables we rely on to feed our families need Honeybee pollination.  The value of Honeybee pollination in the US is more than $14 billion annually.

Honey Production

The Honeybee collects nectar from flowers and converts it into honey, which is then stored in the hive.  Nectar is transported by the Honeybee in her special honey stomach and begins the conversion in flight through the addition of various enzymes.  Nectar/Honey is stored in wax cells on the hive frame and is partially dehydrated through ‘fanning’ by the bees.  (This changes the nectar from 80% moisture to 17%, which is the exact humidity that causes honey to never ‘spoil’.)  When the honey reaches 17% moisture the bees cap the cells with a thin layer of wax, which is produced in special wax glands on their abdomens. In its lifetime, a bee makes less than a small spoonful of honey.  To do this a bee may visit thousands of flowers a day. To make a small jar of honey, bees must visit approximately two million flowers.

Honey provides the energy for Honeybees’ flight muscles and for enabling the bee to shiver, generating heat to keep the cluster of bees warm in the winter months. The brood requires a temperature of 93 degrees F for them to stay alive and grow.  In the summer months the bees fan air throughout the hive to act as air conditioning and in the winter months the bees create a cluster around the brood and queen to keep them warm.  Pollen is also collected and stored which provides protein and fat for the brood to grow. The queen lays eggs in early spring resulting in thousands of worker bees being born and ready in late spring to carry out pollination activities.

Anybody can keep Honeybees; farmers, businessmen and women, homemakers, carpenters, children, doctors, university professors and just about anyone else you can imagine. Honeybees can be kept almost anywhere.  There are beekeepers in deserts, small towns, and rural areas, in suburban areas, in large cities and on beachfront property.  There are bee hives on the Paris Opera House, in Hyde Park in London, England and in the White House garden.  A number of restaurants have hives on their roofs in order to supply their honey needs. Check out this video about a rooftop beekeeper in NYC.

Beekeeping as a hobby is fun and interesting.  The more you read about the Honeybees, the more you respect Mother Nature and how interdependent we are with this planet.  A good book that has all you need to begin beekeeping is “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Dr. Keith Delaplane.  Another great book is “Beekeeping For Dummies”.

I leave you with this thought from the movie, “Vanishing of the Bee”: 

“The future of the bees is not in one beekeeper with 60,000 hives but with 60,000 people each keeping one hive.”

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