Did you know? The average worker produces about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Or that it takes 556 worker bees flying 35,854 miles over the course of 80,000 flights to visit 2 million flowers to produce 1 pound of honey.
The next time you bite into an apple or strawberry, get on your knees and thank the bees. Without honeybees and other pollinators, we wouldn’t enjoy those juicy fruits. Nor would we have blueberries, almonds, watermelons, and more than 100 other food crops. The USDA estimates that about one-third of the food we eat comes from insect-pollinated plants, and honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of this pollination.
You may have heard that honeybees are in trouble. In just the last 10 years, a mysterious problem has struck bee colonies in the United States and elsewhere. Experts have dubbed it colony collapse disorder (CCD). For no apparent reason, honey bees abandon their hives, honey, and larvae and fly away to die. Scientists have yet to determine a cause, but many believe it may be due to a cocktail of insults, including insecticides; lack of wildflowers; the proliferation of genetically modified crops; pathogens and parasites.
The good news is that bees are, in many ways, smarter than we humans. After all, they’ve been around for 40 million years! Still, they can use our help. There are many things you and your kids can do to ensure they keep making their sweet stuff to add to our teas and recipes like those on the next page. Plant native wildflowers in your yard to create a diverse habitat of forage, buy organic fruits and vegetables, and consider building a backyard beehive.
You can get into the hobby for as little as $400, which includes one hive box with frames and foundation (the stuff on which bees build comb), essential tools like a smoker and protective clothing, and a package of 5,000 bees with a queen. To find beekeeping equipment, search Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, or Dadant & Sons online catalogs. Take a beekeeping class ($100) through a local beekeeping club to pick up tips from the experts.
That’s what we did before starting our Eat This, Not That! apiary, not far from our satellite office in Bethlehem, Pa. Then, in early May, we installed 10,000 Italian honeybees into two Langstroth hives that we built from pine-wood kits. The hives sit on the edge of woods bordering a farm. We can now see that the workers’ hind legs are thick with yellowish-orange pollen. Other females are busy making wax comb cells into which the queens (one in each hive) deposit their eggs. (Visit EatThis.com/bees to see our honeybees in action.)
By late summer, we hope to harvest a couple of pints from our first-year hives. We’ll need to leave about 60 pounds of honey in each hive for the bees to feed on through the winter. Of course, you don’t need to own an apiary to enjoy the honeybees’ bounty. Buy a few jars of local raw honey at a farm stand. And try it in one of these sweet recipes listed below.
Honey & Ginger Sweet Iced TeaShutterstock
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
3 cups water
3 tea bags of green or black tea
½ cup raw local honey
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
7 cups cold water
HOW TO MAKE IT
Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the tea bags and boil 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes.
Remove the tea bags. Stir in the honey and ginger.
Pour into a 1-gallon glass container and add the 7 cups of cold water and lemon slices. Serve over ice.
MAKES 20 COOKIES
1½ sticks sweet butter
1/3 cup raw local honey
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1½ Tbsp water
2 cups quick-cooking oats
HOW TO MAKE IT
1. Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F.
Cream the butter, honey, and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla.Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the egg/honey/butter mixture. Add the water and oats and mix the dough.
Make balls of dough and flatten them on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
MAKES 10 DRINKS
6 Tbsp raw local honey
¼ cup hot water
2 cups white rum
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, loosely packed
Lemon slices, for garnish
HOW TO MAKE IT
1. Stir to dissolve the honey in ¼ cup of hot water and pour into a pitcher. Add the rum and lemon juice.
2. Muddle the lemon balm with a wooden spoon and add to the honey/rum/water pitcher.
3. Fill 8 canning jars with ice cubes and partially fill each jar with drink mixture. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon slices.