Text Box: Our Bees

Our Bees are kept on a southeast facing slope where they enjoy early morning sun, great ventilation, protection from coldest winter winds and hottest summer blazes, access to a clean, natural water source.

Over 12 years we have grown from bee-havers to bee-keepers to now what we’d like to think of ourselves as ‘bee-stewards’. We’ve never stopped learning -- from books, schools, and mostly from the bees.

Our management principles are based on acknowledging that the colony is a superorganism (not just a big bunch of bees living together); knowing about the colony’s remarkable life cycle is every bit, perhaps more, important than learning about individual honey bee biology and lifecycles.

Further, we’ve committed to keeping the bees ‘naturally’; we have not used miticides, antibiotics or other chemicals used in more conventional beekeeping. Perhaps most importantly, we are committed to the colony’s health, especially through nutrition. That means that we harvest honey judiciously, taking only the surplus and ensuring the colony has plenty for their own needs especially over the winter and periods where little or no blossoms are available. And what that means is that we rarely need to feed out bees the sugar syrup (or worse) that also is a major part of conventional beekeeping.

A Taste of 2012 - - Instead of harvesting both a spring and summer ‘batch’, we waited till August so we could be absolutely sure that the bees made enough for both their winter needs and for us and our customers. So one batch that blends nectar from all the flowers the bees visited; a picture for your palate of a unique place and time. Taking and delivering local orders now.

Our Honey comes from the nectar our honeybees gather as they visit blossoms within two to four miles of our mountain home between Asheville and Hendersonville, NC.

Unlike most honey in the country, our mountain honey is derived almost entirely from the blossoms of trees and wild plants, and very little from agricultural crops. The main spring flow is May and generally is a blend of nectars from the magnificent tulip poplar trees, the less reliable but aromatic black locust trees and the ubiquitous blackberry brambles. Then there is a break in the action and bees are searching high and low, often in your gardens and lawns, for flowers until our prized sourwood trees bloom in late June. Several varieties of native sumac also bloom at this time lending a reddish tint to our otherwise light, world famous sourwood honey. After that, the summer dearth can be long and hard for bees and beekeepers alike and the bees may have to eat much of what they’ve stored. Again, this is the time of the year when you’ll see honeybees in clover-covered lawns and buzzing around the humming bird feeders.

The final bloom period is September and October with goldenrod and many different asters. Sadly, this flow has decreased significantly as the meadows, fallow fields and roadsides, once lush with the purples, whites and golds, are becoming developed. (This loss of habitat is even more devastating for our native pollinators.)

Each year’s honey harvest is unique, similar to the concept of wine vintages. For example -

In 2005 most of the Tulip Poplar blossoms froze and died so spring honey (generally a rich dark color) was nearly ‘white’ from the locust and blackberry crops.

In 2006 the summer honey (usually the light sourwood honey) had a red tinge, perhaps from sumac. 2007 brought the horrific Easter freeze and we made no spring honey, but were rewarded with a bumper fall sourwood harvest.

Spring 2008’s honey was the most aromatic locust blend in memory, but the extreme drought meant little or no summer honey and no goldenrod / aster flow.

2009 was a bumper year for us, but 2010 was just the opposite. In 2011, the spring honey was a delicious blend of the usual three nectars plus those of holly and blueberry flowers. Each year also brings a different yield — a good year is 70-80 or more pounds of honey per hive. Some years bring no rain and few blooms with little or no nectar; untimely rains or cold weather can prevent the foragers from gathering great quantities of nectar.

Nectar becomes honey when the bees add several healthy enzymes (including invertase) as they collect and transfer their precious load. The watery nectar is ‘ripened’ as it is dried during the actual transfer process from worker to worker and by the fanning of thousands of tiny wings once it has been deposited in a tiny hexagonal wax cell. When less than 18 ½% water, workers ’cap’ or seal each cell with a fine layer of pure beeswax. Now, it’s honey.

 

Click for the amazing story of Beeswax

 

Text Box: Do You Know ?
Honey bees travel an average of 1600 round trips (from flower to hive) in order to produce one ounce of honey; up to 6 miles per trip. To produce 2 pounds of honey, bees travel a distance equal to 4 times around the earth.
The queen bee can lay her weight in eggs (1500-2000) each day. 
Honey bees communicate with smells, or scents called pheremones. They can fan the scent with their wings and they transfer or rub the pheremone via their antennae.
They also communicate by dancing. One dance alerts other bees when nectar and pollen are available. Another dance explains the location, direction (with respect to the sun) and distance of the source from the hive.
Only female honey bees have stingers, but they only sting once and then they die. They sting only to protect themselves and the hive.
Products of the hive (honey, propolis, beeswax, royal jelly) have been used for 5000years for medicinal purposes. New scientific research is showing that honey has antibacterial properties and is a valuable antioxidant.
A honey bee will produce approximately 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. During the summer, the average honeybee lives 5 - 6 weeks.
A typical hive houses one queen, approximately 500 drones (males) and 40,000 female worker bees.
Drones do no work in the hive. Their single job is to fertilize the queen, after which they die. Their huge eyes help them to locate the queen on their mating flights.
As pollinators,  honey bees and other foraging insects are essential to more than 95 crops worth an estimated $15 billion.
Honey bees collect pollen in ’baskets’ on their hind legs. Pollen provides protein to feed the brood.
The honey bee is an immigrant to North America, brought by colonists in the 1600’s.
Swarming is the way honey bees propagate; it is how the species survives. Honey bees are generally very unlikely to sting when they are swarming, or when they are foraging.
Text Box: Honey Bees make dark, delicious, anti-oxidant- rich honey from the nectar of the Tulip or Yellow Poplar (Tulipifera liriodendron)  for several weeks in spring, usually starting in early May. In a good year, a large, healthy hive can Text Box: Each of the shallow boxes or supers holds up to 30 pounds of honey.  Diane is holding up one frame of capped honey from this extremely productive hive.