Bees

Artsy Bees
Bees moving into a new hive

This year, for the first time not only at Third Root, but also for the first time ever, Nick is keeping some bees.  His interest piqued by a class at Penn State, he’s finally got bees six years after the fact. We currently have one hive of bees, and we expect the honey to be mostly for personal use, so don’t expect to see too much at the market this year.

What is honey?

Fun fact #1:

Bees eat nectar and regurgitate honey. Bees forage around at flowers to collect nectar, which is about 80% water and 20% sugar (honey has the ratios reversed). They swallow it down and take it back to the hive. There, many bees work in concert to process the nectar into simpler sugars in their “honey stomachs”, from which the processed nectar (now unripe honey) is regurgitated back into honey comb. It’s left uncapped for a while so more water can evaporate. When done, it is capped off.

Bees feeding
Bees getting fed sugar syrup

Fun fact #2:

Once ripe and sealed, honey will never go bad. It’s like nature’s Twinkie.

Fun fact #3:

If/when we decide to sell honey, we probably won’t make such a big deal about it being regurgitated by bees. Till then . . . well, see Fun Fact #1.

Last fun fact:

Honey has more fructose than glucose. In fact, the fructose:glucose ratio is about 1.2:1, which is higher than white sugar (1:1). This makes it sweeter per gram. Some folks (like Allie) are slightly sensitive to fructose, so don’t buy the BS that the corn campaign is pushing that “sugar is sugar.” It’s not!

What for?

There are tons of uses for honey. Literally. If you printed a sheet for every known use for honey, I bet it would actually weigh > 1 ton. But besides sweetening things, here’s a short list of things we’re looking forward to doing with our dehydrated bee-processed nectar.

  • Mead! Honey wine. Call it what you will, but we’re going to ferment the honey to make some truly local alcohol.
  • Beauty products. Allie likes what honey can do for your face, so she’ll be doing some skin care-y things. Since Nick is writing this page, there’s not much more info on that right now.
  • Gifts. Friends and family: if Nick doesn’t screw it up, you know what to expect come the holidays.

Checking in on the bees
Checking in on the bees

Equipment

Most of what we’ve got came from Dadant and Sons. Without much experience with other suppliers, I can say with confidence that they are strictly ok. They’ve got a physical location about 50 minutes away, which is convenient for picking up bees, but their staff let me leave without one or two key items even after I asked if I had what I needed to get started as a beginner.

I’m trying to raise the bees organically.  Honestly, I’m not sure what the requirements are for organic bees, so here’s what I’m up to. No medicine unless the bees are actually sick. Many beekeepers proactively treat bees to keep them healthy — the insect equivalent of CAFOs. I’m hoping to manage the hive well enough that it won’t be an issue.

I’m also not wearing gloves or a body suit. After working with bees a little, I’m not sure how you’d possibly handle them with any kind of dexterity in thick cotton gloves and a huge, cumbersome suit. I’m pretty sure my ability to handle them gently should result in fewer stings than I’d get if I handled them roughly with all the extra padding on. Next step: bee beard. (kidding . . . but not really).

More info

You can find more info about the bees by looking up our blog posts about bees. Something else you want to know that’s not there? Ask for it in the comments.

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