Sunday, May 1, 2022

Background of the Bee Suit

A fundamental piece in a beekeeper's toolkit is the bee suit. The classic all-white jumpsuit with mesh veil is the first thing someone thinks of when the word beekeeper is mentioned. The bee suit has been optimally fitted for beekeeping. Let's take a look at some of the different elements of the bee suit and the purpose of the design. 

beekeepers working in the hives while wearing their bee suits

Bee suits are light in color, most commonly seen in white. Predators of the hive such as bears, raccoons, and skunks all have dark fur. Because of this, darker colors alarm bees more than very light colors do. 

Bee suits can be made in a thick canvas material. The canvas suit is effective in keeping bees out and preventing stings, but can get extremely hot. Spending hours a day working in hives during the spring and summer months can be a very physically taxing job. Now, the popularity of mesh suits has risen. These new suits have layered mesh, which allow airflow while also protecting the beekeeper from a potential sting.
Another facet of the bee suit are gloves, in order to avoid stinging in the hand. A beekeeper's gloves are typically made out of goat leather. Goat leather is not as inpenetrable as leather from cows, but it is softer and thinner, giving the beekeeper more ability to move. Beekeeping can be incredibly delicate work, so free range of motion is important. Bee suits are specially designed for being in beehives and around honeybees. They are useful for any beekeeper!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Honey Across America

Across the United States, from California to Maine, honey is produced. There are more than 300 different varieties of honey that can be found in America. Honey comes in many different colors and flavors. The type and taste of honey is determined by the nectar source that honeybees find in different flowers. As a guideline, the darker the honey, the more intense the flavor. Lighter honeys typically have a more floral and sweet taste to them.

A few of the different colors of honey.

Buckwheat honey is a darker variety of honey, known for its powerful and potent taste. It is produced by honeybees from a buckwheat plant. It can be found in the northern half of the United States.

Avocado honey is produced predominately in California. Avocado honey has a smooth yet bold flavor, similar in color, thickness and flavor to molasses.
An avocado tree where honeybees collect the nectar needed to make avocado honey. 

Orange blossom honey is made by honeybees mainly in Florida. Something that is unique about orange blossom honey is that it has a slight orange flavor to it. This is completely natural, as the flavor of orange is not artificially added. Most honeys that come from fruit producing flowers do not have the taste of that fruit, but orange blossom honey is unique. This honey is light amber in color.

Orange blossom honey with a sprig of orange blossom.

It is important to support the American honey industry. Honeybees have a vital role in agriculture, and the best thing a person can do to help the honeybees is to support the people who take care of them, the beekeepers!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

2022 Representative Crowned in Las Vegas

The new American Honey Queen was selected at the 2022 American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

2022 American Honey Queen
Lucy Winn from Pennsylvania

Congratulations! She will travel the United States promoting honey and beekeeping and post interesting articles about bees and honey along the way. Keep an eye out for the sweetest representative in America!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Who Are Beekeepers?

This month, let’s learn about the people who take care of honey bees; Beekeepers!

Beekeepers are the caregivers of the beehive.

Hobbyist beekeepers generally have 1-25 hives. Some gather and use the honey for personal use while others may experiment with purifying beeswax to make cosmetics like makeup, lotions, and soap bars. Many hobbyists keep their bees in small city lots which helps to pollinate the flowers that we see at city parks, along the roads, and in our neighborhoods. Even though hobbyist beekeepers have relatively few hives, it still takes a lot of hard work to inspect the hives regularly in the hot summers and cold winters. 

Beekeepers check their hives regularly to see how the bees are doing
and if they need any supplemental food.

In contrast, Sideline and Commercial Beekeepers have hundreds and thousands of hives! These people manage beehives on a large scale to provide you and me fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and even our clothes! All of these products are made possible by commercial beekeepers loading their beehives onto tractor-trailers and moving them across the country as the different crops bloom. Honey bees are very efficient pollinators, pollinating millions of flowers each day! They too work hard all year to help other farmers increase the quality and quantity of their crops. The next time you go to the grocery store or buy honey from a beekeeper, remember that one-third of the food that you eat was pollinated by a honey bee and that the beekeepers worked hard all year to give you this amazing product called honey. 

This Montana beekeeper loads his hives in preparation for crop pollination.




Wednesday, December 1, 2021

How do we use products from a hive?

Honeybees are quite amazing insects if you really think about it. Not only do they make it possible to have so many delicious fruits and vegetables but the products that they produce are used in so many different ways! The unique and diverse ways that these products are used my surprise you and who knows, you may even be already using them at home.



Health

What do you reach for when you feel a tingle in your throat? Make it your jar of honey or honey cough drops! Honey and propolis are found in many health products for the immune boosting properties found in them. Honey helps to naturally sooth a sore or scratchy throat. One product that you may not think of is pollen. Pollen is a great addition to your diet as it is high in protein and has many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found within the yellow, green, and orange pollen pellets collected by honeybees. This pollen can improve your imune system in addition to improving wound healing.



Beauty

Beeswax can commonly be found in beauty products such as chapstick, lotion, makeup, and even hand creams. The properties in beeswax not only helps to lock moisture into the skin but can also help to draw additional moisture to the skin. Royal jelly is another product made by bees that can be found in beauty products. Typically you will see royal jelly in facial and hand creams for its believed benefits that it helps to reduce the signs of aging. But besides beeswax and royal jelly, honey can be found in hand soaps, hair masks, and body wash as honey not only adds moisture to skin and hair but it can also help to reduce inflamation of the skin. 



Home Products

There are many uses of beeswax around the home! Making and using beeswax cloth wraps are a great alternative to plastic food storage bags if you are looking to wrap up some fruit or maybe a sandwhich. Not only is it reusable but it is also super easy to clean because beeswax repells water. The ability to repel water is a great reason to use beeswax to waterproof boots, clothing, tents, and equipment that you don't want to get wet. You may ocassionally see beeswax used in furniture and shoe polish or even applied to skis to help them glide. Firestarters are commonly found using beeswax to protect the firestarter from getting wet making it better able to handle the elements when camping. It can also be used to lubricate zippers, wooden drawers, instrument valves, or even grease your baking pans!





We can utilize the products of the hives in so many different ways. But the fascinating aspect is that many of these products have been used for thousands of years! Try incorporating products from the hive into your health care and beauty routine or maybe try some of the home products featuring beeswax.

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Fascinating Languages of Honey Bees

Honey bees have many ways to communicate with each other. In this month’s article, we will cover how honey bees talk in the hive and communicate where food is!


Pheromones - The Honey Bees’ Perfume

Here a worker bee extends her abdomen to warn the colony of a threat.

The first way honey bees communicate is through smell. The two main odors are for alarm and the queen bee. The alarm smell helps the guard bees to quickly tell the rest of the colony that an intruder is about to attack. The colony in response will come to that location to provide assistance to protect their hive. Generally, bees will respond to alarm pheromone only at or near the colony, not in the field. Honey bees also use this scent to help her sister locate the hive, food, and water. The queen bee produces a unique smell that tells the colony that all is well. If the queen were to die, that smell would be missing and the worker bees would begin to make a new queen from a female egg.

The mixture of pheromones plus the distinctive queen signature pheromone, mix with food odors to give each bee colony a distinctive hive odor.


Waggle Dances - Where’s the food?

Honey bees use the sun as a point of reference to find flowers.

Honey bees communicate where resources are by performing a type of dance on the bee comb. When she first discovers a new field of flowers, she will remember exactly where it is in relation to the beehive. She takes a sample of the nectar back to the hive to share with her sisters. As she arrives back to the hive, she makes her way to the dancefloor, eager to tell the colony about the resource that she found! By moving in a figure-8 pattern at a specific angle on the comb, she tells the colony how far away the flowers are and which direction the bees should head. She will also wiggle her abdomen to show the quality of the nectar or pollen that she found.


Friday, October 1, 2021

The Relationship Between Beekeepers & Farmers

Have you ever heard about "mutual relationship"? A mutual relationship is when both individuals benefit from the interaction. In this case, we are going to look at the relationship between beekeepers and farmers and the benefit they each receive from working together with one another.


Benefits to the Consumer

With the joint effort of farmers and beekeepers, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. There are over 90 different crops that are pollinated by insects like honeybees. Some of your favorite may include melons, berries, pecans, apples, cucumbers, and so much more all because of the pollination from honeybees! Without farmers, our diets would look drastically different and without honeybees and beekeepers, 1/3 of the food that we eat wouldn't be possible. 


Working Together- Farmer Benefits

Beekeepers and farmers may work together for a multitude of reasons with one being pollination. When beekeepers introduce honeybees into fields of crops, the pollination that these honeybees help increase not only the yields but also the size and uniformity of the produce in that field. If large scale farmers have acres and acres of crops, there may be a chance that the local bees will not be able to effectively pollinate all of those crops leading to decreased yields and revenue for the farmer. Farmers receive the benefit of better crop production made possible through the partnership with beekeepers and their bees. 


Working Together- Beekeeper Benefits

When farmers and beekeepers work together, not only do the farmers benefit in this relationship but so do the beekeepers. When farmers ask beekeepers to bring hives of bees to crop fields for pollination, farmers typically will pay them for these pollination services. The payment from these pollination services can be a good source of income for the beekeeper as some beekeepers focus on providing these pollination services over producing honey. In addition to the payment that these beekeepers may receive, the bees that are placed in these crop fields will have the opportunity to collect nectar and pollen to store away as food. Some beekeepers may be able to receive specialty honey depending on what crops the bees are pollinating such as blueberry honey, orange blossom honey, and even cranberry honey. These specialty fruity honeys take on a faint taste of the flavor in which the nectar is gathered making orange blossom honey have a slight citrus flavor to it. Beekeepers can then go on to sell this honey as a specialty item as these types of honey are less common.


Small and Large Scale Beekeepers

There isn't just one type of beekeeper that farmers work with. Small scale beekeepers may not be solely focusing on providing pollination services to their local farmers. Rather, they may inadvertently be helping surrounding farmers as their bees visit the surrounding crops and orchards leading to increased production. These small scale beekeepers are typically keeping bees for a few reasons including pollinating their garden, receiving fresh honey, or for the joy of keeping bees. Large scale beekeepers, especially those that are focusing on pollination have a slightly different goal for their hives. While large scale beekeepers might focus their efforts on honey production, there are many other large scale beekeepers that partner with farmers for the purpose of pollination. These commercial beekeepers will transport their hives to wherever the farmer needs bees depending on which crops need pollination. 


Communication for Success

In any relationship, communication is vital! Through communication, beekeepers and farmers have the opportunity to prepare and plan for pesticide and insecticide applications on crop fields. When a beekeeper knows that a farmer is going to be applying chemicals to their crops, beekeepers have the ability to remove their bee hives from those fields to reduce the chance of those bees coming into contact with chemicals. Not only does this benefit the beekeeper as less bees will be affected by the chemicals but the farmer also benefits as there will be more bees available for crop pollination.  

Maintaining the relationship between farmers and beekeepers is mutually beneficial to both parties. Not only do the farmers benefit from larger yields of crops but the beekeepers also have the opportunity to receive payment for pollination services that are provided. Since 1/3 of the food we eat is impacted by pollinating insects like honeybees, don't forget to thank your local beekeepers and farmers that are responsible for providing us with delicious food for our tables!