A Woman’s Work

By treatyrockbeef - Last updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Farmers Market Friends:

Bees are the cornerstone of food production all around us and important measure of the health of our environment.  They pollinate flowers in their search for nectar that they digest and turn into the golden magic that sustains the hive through the winter and that people have loved for millenia.  It takes 12 bees their entire lives to make a teaspoon of honey.  100% of California’s almond crop requires the attention of bees.  80%-90% of apple blossoms are pollinated by bees.  Do you like squash or blueberries ??  Give a shout-out to the bees for your pies and ratatouille.  The worker bees are all female – the male drones have no purpose other than fertilizing the queen.

The process of honey production is described on the website of Ford’s Raw Honey Farm located in Middleville, NY in Herkimer County in the beautiful southern foothills of the Adirondacks.

“Honeybees use nectar to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In fact, if you have ever pulled a honeysuckle blossom out of its stem, nectar is the clear liquid that drops from the end of the blossom. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes and fruit tree blossoms. They use their long, tubelike tongues like straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and they store it in their “honey stomachs”. Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach. The honey stomach holds almost 70 mg of nectar and when full, it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honeystomachs. The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive. The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it a thicker syrup. The bees make the nectar dry even faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.”

Honey never goes bad and has been found in the Egyptian pyramids that is still edible.  Many bee hives have recently been struggling with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  The phenomenon that has caused hive losses of 30%-70% in some areas (worst in 2006-2007) is not fully understood and may be attributed to a combination of pesticides, genetically modified crops, tracheal mites, a gut parasite and physical stress linked with increased effort required to find high-value nectar sources.  This “perfect storm” of environmental stresses seems to place the bees in an immune-compromised state with devastating results.  Our food production system is at risk and everyone should be aware of the severity of the problem.  For more information have a look at www.ars.usda.gov/is/br/ccd/

Maryann Frazier, who researches colony collapse disorder with the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium, said the situation is discouraging. “Things do continue to be bad,” she said.  She said colony collapse disorder is just one of the many problems bees are up against.  The good news is that people have become more aware and concerned about our food supply and are calling for a more sustainable way to produce food, she said.  This includes supporting small beekeepers and organic farmers.

“It’s more evidence to support local and healthy food production,” she said.

This week’s FARM FACT saves you 10% on your beef purchase at Treaty Rock Farm booth at South Kingstown Farmers Market – What is the scientific name for the Common or Western Honey Bee – Apis mellifera

We have an interesting story on local beekeepers Michael and Michelle Cabral coming out this week on our new blog
www.rifarmsandfood.com Bee well !!

Respecting the Protein, PMB

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