Thursday, September 04, 2008

Save the Bees

Yesterday we went on a field trip to Stiltner's Apiary. The kids enjoyed it, especially the taste testing. I found it fascinating. Mr. Stiltner has raised bees for a long time, and works for the State Agriculture Department. He knows his stuff.

He walked us through part of his bees. He keeps millions (literally) of bees. He explained some cross breeding projects he is currently working on, and showed us the process used to get the honey. All along the way giving lots of interesting tidbits and facts about bees. I learned a lot.

The Africanization of bees.
I didn't even know there was such a thing, or that it was a problem. Basically African bees are very aggressive toward people and other bees. They also are genetically dominate. His bees are very gentle, and his cross breeding project is an attempt to get a hardy, productive and gentle bee suited for West Virginia. He suggested that those who want to start with bees do not order queens from Florida or California because they are likely to be Africanized there.

The demise of the bees.
He recommended a National Geographic production about bees. Another mom at the field trip said that PBS also recently showed it. I don't know the exact title.

You may have heard about the great numbers of bees that are dying for reasons scientists can't explain. According to the film, if the current loss rate continues there will be no honey bees by 2035. If you've seen the animated Bee Movie, you know what happens when the honey bees stop working, plants stop producing our food.

Health Benefits of Honey
I know that honey is supposed to be a healthier sweetener, but am not very educated on the subject. A couple of things he mentioned on the field trip caught my interest.

Honey can help those with allergies, but not any honey will do. You need to eat honey that was made locally or at least in a place with similar vegetation. Honey produced far from you was made with pollens that you don't encounter, and therefore won't help your allergies. Makes sense doesn't it?

According to Mr. Stiltner honey that is mass produced has little more health benefit than sugar. The processing it goes through kills all the good stuff. Ever microwaved your honey after it crystallized? That is a no no too. It kills the good stuff. Warm it up with hot water or in a sunny window.

The glue like substance the bees use in the hive is like penicillin. In fact, it is nicknamed Russian penicillin and has been traditionally used to treat illness.

Papaw has mentioned getting bees several times. While I've always thought it was a good idea, this field trip has piqued my interest. Time to do some more research and move bees up on the want list. The other project that has been mentioned latley is maple syrup. Mmmm.... it is going to be sweet around here!


  1. Wade is so helpful. He's told me quite a few times that as soon as the farm gets set up, he'll come out and get us going with some bees. There's a man who hasn't worked a day in his life, 'cuz he loves his job!

  2. Hello.
    Great post on bees. I've thought about raising bees because I could do it someone elses property who would love to have bees near their crops. You don't need to own land.

  3. That's a pretty neat field trip. I hope you got to bring some honey home. ;)

  4. we were excited to see a swarm around one of our trees in the spring - that means they settled in and are making honey. Not that we have any way of getting any. I ran across this blog a few months ago. I don't follow it since beekeeping is NOT something I will ever do. I'm amazed I was able to find it again.

  5. Very interesting post. We are thinking about bees for next spring and there is so much to learn!

  6. I saw something recently that there's a growing suspicion in England that their decimated bee population is being caused by a pecticide made by Bayer. Just my two cents.