Glen Park Honey Harvest

A frame of capped honey fresh from the hive.

When beekeeper Scott Mattoon brought a slab of beautiful capped honey into Flour+Water last year, I doubt he had any idea as to how profoundly this moment would impact us. It’s one thing to know where your food comes from in a sort of abstract sense; it’s a different thing entirely to stop and really think about it. When I saw that honeycomb capped with a snowy white layer of wax, I couldn’t help but be transported to the hive, filled with thousands of bees involved in ceaseless activity. I was struck by the realization that so much work went into this substance and that I’d taken it completely for granted up to that moment.

As I began to learn more about the honey bee, I found myself even more in awe of this creature. A little bit of honey trivia for you:

- The average honey bee produces less than a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

- She will live between 3-6 weeks (about half of that time spent foraging) and will make between 3-10 flights per day, transporting 20-40mg of nectar at a time. She will literally forage herself to death, as the act takes an enormous toll on the honeybee physiologically.

- Foragers in a colony must visit approximately two million flowers to produce one pound of honey, flying over 55,000 miles collectively.

It was in understanding the fact that all of this industry is performed in order that the colony can provide food for itself and its brood that I started to think differently about honey. The amount of honey a colony needs to sustain it through lean times depends on the size of the colony and the ambient climate. Bees living in places with colder winters and less forage are often fed sugar water or corn syrup in order to make up for the honey that beekeepers harvest from the hive. We are fortunate to live in a fairly temperate climate where forage is available most months of the year and a colony can replenish its stores, if necessary. Regardless, I feel that there is a fair balance we can strike by leaving a generous amount of honey in the hive when we harvest in order to ensure that the bees are never in want of the food that is the most nourishing for them – the food they, themselves, produce: Honey!