Contrary to everything I learned reading Winnie the Pooh, I was shocked to learn this week that bears actually don’t like honey. When they go after bee hives, it is the high protein content in the baby bees that make their tummies rumble.
I met Scott Nelson at Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Scott is a third-generation beekeeper and co-owner of Bear Foot Honey
in Sonoma, California. He brought samples of some of his delicious all-natural honey — we tasted wildflower, blackberry, clover, and raspberry-sage, among others. Honey gets its flavor from the flowers the bees pollinate and Scott drives his hives as far north as Washington state to make the best-tasting honey.
Scott doesn’t use any safety equipment when tending the hives and is used to getting 20 stings every day. At the moment, he has 600 hives and loses 100 hives a year to black bears. He says that bees reproduce “like third world countries” so it’s not a big problem. His two employees are from the Ukraine. Beekeeping is so popular in the Ukraine that the president is an apiarist.
For more on different types of honey, check out my blog on the Jewish New Year honey tasting
from last month.
A quick lesson about the flowers and the bees….
In hives there are three types of bee: the single queen bee, drone bees to fertilize new queens (male), and some 20,000 to 40,000 worker bees (female).
The worker bees go out, collect the sugar-rich flower nectar that will become honey, release pheromones and return to the hive. They also release pheromones at the entrance to the hive. Honeybees find their way to the chosen flowers and back to the hive through smell memory.
The queen is the only sexually mature female in the hive and all of the female worker bees and male drones are her offspring. The queen can live for up to three years or more and may be capable of laying half a million eggs in her lifetime.
The queen is raised from a normal worker egg, but is fed a larger amount of royal jelly than a normal worker bee, resulting in a radically different growth and metamorphosis. She secretes something that prevents any of her female offspring from becoming Queen. Mating takes place at some distance from the hive and often several hundred feet up in the air; it is thought that this separates the strongest drones from the weaker ones.
The next time I drizzle some honey with my yogurt or on a peanut butter sandwich I’m going to take a moment to think about all of the thousands of bees that made the experience possible.
Tags: bear foot honey