East Texas Quarterly Magazine Spring 2014 - Page 10

When conditions are right, they also get a bonus of beeswax, and honey. But honey bee numbers are declining. Bees face more challenges than ever before. New potent insecticides, indiscriminate spraying by homeowners, Colony Collapse Disorder, monoculture cropping, new diseases, Africanized “killer” bee infestation, small hive beetles, wax moths-all hit our local honey bees pretty hard. Maybe you noticed fewer honey bees in your fruit trees, or no bumble bees at all around your squash. Feral honey bee colonies used to serve as dependable sources for pollination. Feral colonies resulted from bees Honey is nature’s perfect sweetener for humans. But it is the staff of life for a bee colony. Bees work frantically any time flowers are blooming to gather as much nectar as possible to store for the long winter ahead. Each worker bee will produce about 1/12 teaspoon of honey during their brief life, only living an average of 21 to 28 days. But their hard work will insure the hive’s survival. Beekeepers make sure bees have enough to make it through winter, and only harvest any excess above that. And what of that honey? Isn’t it all the same? Well, not quite. Each type of flower will produce its own flavor of honey. So the crystal clear honey of blackberry, yaupon and holly tastes different than dark brown honey of goldenrod and buckwheat. One other difference is important. Large commercial firms heat their honey, and run it through paper filters. That takes every speck of pollen out. Unfortunately, it also destroys the enzymes. Locally produced “raw” honey is not heated, and is strained through cheese cloth only. This preserves the enzymes, and allows microscopic pollen particles through. That local pollen helps many people suffering from seasonal allergies. So as good as commercial honey looks, you should consider finding local sources. Check out the local farmer’s market, feed stores, and even health food stores. Locally, many beekeepers tend their colonies and reap the rewards of well- pollinated gardens and fruit trees. 8 East Texas Quarterly