Did you know the honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man?
It takes 500 honey bees four weeks to make one kilogram of honey, and they will travel the equivalent of three orbits of the earth in distance to collect it.
For bees to collect the nectar from flowers to make honey, ideally the weather is hot and dry without any wind. Bee hives are placed strategically near nectar sources. For instance, if you want Manuka honey, the hives are placed near Manuka trees. In the honey season beekeepers monitor when the flowers bloom, and place the hives in the right place at the right time. Like any type of farming, nature dictates and the quality of blooming can vary.
Differences between bush and pasture honeys
Bush honeys include Manuka, Rewarewa, Tawari and Kamahi, while pasture honeys come from wild flowers including clover. The honey's flavour tells you where it's from! For example, when you taste Mother Earth Native Bush Blend, you immediately savour the caramel, butter and toffee tones from Rewarewa, Kamahi and Tawari respectively. Compare that with Clover Blend and this pasture honey definitely has a milder flavour. If you prefer a strong, earthy taste, Manuka Blend and Manuka UMF5+ and 10+ are the way to go. Each honey type has its place, depending on personal preferences and its use.
What is so special about UMF?
UMF means Unique Manuka Factor and is expressed numerically, UMF 5+, 10+ etc. It is a quality mark and basically means that the Manuka honey you buy has been certified: we send honey samples to a recognised, specialist lab and the test results determine the UMF value of the honey. Essentially it ensures the purity and quality of Manuka honey.
Who is the Queen bee?
A Queen bee only mates one time in her life on her maiden flight. She may mate with up to 8-10 drones on this flight. She will then go back down to her hive, grow up to 3 times in size over the next few days then start laying up to 2000 eggs a day for almost the rest of her life. She will not leave the hive again, unless she has run out of room and swarms...
Different types of bees
There are nursery bees who look after the baby bees in the hive, they then become hive bees looking after the hive, keeping it very clean and disease free. There are also field bees who go out and collect nectar and bee pollen from flower sources close to the hive. There are drone bees who are the male bees in the hive.
Life of a beekeeper
To be a successful beekeeper you must enjoy bees, be prepared to get stung, and have time to keep the bees on a seasonal basis. Spring and summer are very busy times, ensuring the bees have a home to live in, plenty of food sources to collect nectar from, storage space to store the honey in, which as a beekeeper you will harvest. There is also disease management and ensuring good health in your beehives.
A beekeeper needs to have a beesuit, which consists of overalls with a veil over your head, gloves, a hive tool for prising the bee boxes apart and frames out, a smoker to smoke the bees. The smoke makes the bees thirsty and they will go back down into the hive to drink nectar honey rather than coming out to see you.
How to make a beehive
A beehive is made of several parts. There is a floor board, with an entrance way for the bees to land on, a tin roof that clamps on to the honey box. The honey box is called a super, made of untreated timber so it is not toxic to bees. There are usually 10 honey frames in a super. In most beehives, there are two brood boxes, where the bees live and the queen lays the eggs, and then the honey supers on top to create a stack. The higher the stack the bigger the hive and hopefully honey crop.
How to raise healthy honey bees?
We need the best environment with a variety of food and water to have healthy happy bees. We rear our own Queen bees, making sure they eat good supplies of pollen and nectar. Strong healthy queens will have strong babies. We move our beehives to ensure they have good food nectar source close to their hives.
Propolis is a sticky resin collected by the bees and brought back to the beehive to varnish and block up all holes in the hive to protect it from diseases. Propolis can be scraped from the boxes and used as an ingredient in products. It is considered to be antiseptic and antiviral. Bees have been known to coat a dead mouse in propolis to ensure it doesn’t smell their hive!
Beeswax is created by the bees using their wax glands. The beeswax is used as a foundation for the bees to hold the honey inside the honey super. Beeswax has many uses and can be eaten.
That's nature at its most delicious!