Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey.... Nature's Sweet Goodness!

Before I knew better, I never thought much of the work that goes into a jar of honey.  It was just something I sweetened my tea with or mixed with butter on a corn muffin.  Sounds good, doesn't it?
Although there is still a lot of the technical aspects of the process I don't know, I certainly do have a new appreciation for honey;  for the bees that make it and all the work that goes into collecting, preparing and bottling it.
Here on the property, we have 10 active bee hives.  I guess in his earlier years, my father in law had about 200 hives spread across the valley.  Just to give you some perspective, from our 10 hives, we extracted just about 500lbs of raw honey.
I have just a couple of pictures to share.  I really did want to get some more shots, but when I went down to the honey house I was immediately put to work.... pictures were not a priority, but my sitting on an upside down bucket in front of the pouring tank sure was!  I earned the title of "Head Bottle Filler" because I could get the jars evenly filled without making a mess.  They made the title sound like something exciting, but I think they were just preparing me for the years to come....
Here's Ray, carrying the frames from the hives to the honey house.  The guys know when the timing is right for this process and everyone pitches in to collect the frames.  The frames are brought into the honey house and the "cap" is cut off the comb with a hot knife.  The cap keeps everything in tact, so when it's cut, the honey is allowed to flow out.  The frames are then put into the centrifuge and spun so that all the honey is thrown out of the frame.  It gets collected, strained and then sits in the tank for a few days to settle and let any impurities rise to the top.
After those few days, we then bottle the honey.  Our honey is raw because it never exceeds 90 degrees, which is the temperature that the bees maintain in the hives.  We don't add anything or process it in any way, we just simply let it run through some mesh so there's nothing yucky in it, but all the goodness stays.  Sounds like I know what I'm doing, doesn't it?
Here are some interesting facts I found that I wanted to share:
  • Honey bees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
  • Honeybees are the only insect that produce food for humans.
  • Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approx 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.
  • Honey is 80% sugars and 20% water.
  • To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 bees.
  • A single honeybee will only produce approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • Honey is the ONLY food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water.
  • Honey never spoils.
  • Bees maintain a temperature of 92-93 degrees Fahrenheit in their central brood nest regardless of whether the outside temperature is 110 or -40 degrees.**
Pretty amazing, isn't it?  I tell ya, I have a whole new perspective and appreciation.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with all this honey....

**(Info gathered from Utah County Beekeepers Association)

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