Treasure Our Honey Bees
Touring the glorious gardens and citrus groves, I became intimately acquainted with the food I was eating. Visiting the beehives and speaking with Executive Chef Greg Frey Jr., I was inspired to think big about my place in the global ecosystem.
Chef Greg started the beekeeping project nearly three years ago and was soon able to delight Golden Door guests with a dollop of raw honey for their ginger tea. However the project’s true value isn’t in the honey but the hives themselves, what they do for the crops and what they mean for all of us.
Bees are truly incredible creatures! And our healthy diets depend on them, so this week I’m sharing a bit of what I learned on my day down at the hive. Read our interview with Chef Greg below and find out more about the real health benefits of honey and how you too can support the bees!
What’s something we would be surprised to learn about bees?
I think most people would be surprised to know that many crops are completely dependent on pollinators like bees. For example California’s almond crop is completely dependent on more than a million hives from all over the country being moved to make the harvest happen. And livestock ranchers are dependent too—bees are used to pollinate the alfalfa and clovers that make up so much of the cattle grazing pastures.
What’s challenging about producing honey in southern California?
While the growing season is great here, this is an arid region so plants don’t flower often or for very long.
And it takes approximately 1.5 to 2 million flowers to make just one pound of honey! An average hive can produce 100 pounds of honey—and that requires a lot of flowers. And now with the severe drought and climate change, it has become that much more challenging for our bees to find the food they need to be successful.
Fascinating! Okay so give us the scoop—is honey really good for us?
Honey is a complete food. When raw and unprocessed, it has essential enzymes, vitamins, minerals, protein and peroxides that give it anti-bacterial qualities. It boosts the immune system, heals wounds and sweetens desserts. You shouldn’t feed it to infants or people with compromised immune systems as it contains pollen—and although it’s a minuscule amount it could cause botulism in those whose immune system has not fully developed or is in jeopardy.
What’s the deal with royal jelly?
I actually don’t advocate for the collection and use of Royal Jelly. It’s a precious resource for the bees that they don’t make in abundance and need to thrive. To manipulate or collect something so precious from a creature already struggling to survive just doesn’t make sense to me. There are other things we can use.
Great to know. What else can we do to support the honey bees?
The best way to help keep bees alive is to be mindful of what you spray and what flowers you plant. Try to increase the pollinator-friendly plants around your house and don’t treat them with insecticides, herbicides, or other toxic chemicals. And if you find a hive someplace they shouldn’t be, call a hive saver or a beekeeper to rescue them.
1 They MAKE MAPS
Bees are always foraging for yummy plants to pollinate and can communicate the location of what they’ve found to other bees with incredible precision.
2 They DANCE
Bees announce they’ve found something good to eat by doing a figure-8 shaped move beekeepers call “the waggle dance.”
3 Girls RULE
Bees are one of the few species that don’t maintain an even gender distribution. The Queen Bee maintains a 95:5 female to male ratio in the hive. The men exist solely to impregnate the queen.
4 They GO THE DISTANCE
A hive of bees will fly the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect one kilogram of honey.
5 They’re CONSISTENT
While countless species have evolved around them, honey bees have been doing their thing for over 20 million years!
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