The sweet aroma of earth and produce tickled my nose as I approached my local farmers market for the first time. I grew up in the Wilson and Rocky Mount area but I had never been to the farmers market before. I met so many nice and helpful farmers; however I would like to expound upon my encounter with Mr. Vaden Hartley. Mr. Hartley gave me a rundown on how honey is made and harvested.
As Mr. Hartley began to speak I quickly drew out my pen and notepad. I got quite a few notes but I still wasn’t able to get everything, but I’m going to share what I was able to capture. First things first, a colony of bees consist of about 30,000 bees and 1 queen. When I heard this I could not really imagine 30,000 bees in one place. The queen bee also lays anywhere from 1500 – 1800 eggs per day. The reason why she lays so many eggs is because the lifecycle of the average bee is 21 days and after 21 days they die. If the queen were to abandon the colony or die she must be replaced immediately or the whole colony will die. This can happen very fast if you are not aware that your queen is no longer there and remember that your bee’s life cycle is only 21 days. If a new queen bee is introduced to the colony, they must first get her scent so that they will always be in the right colony.
During this 21 days a forager bee will be traveling to acquire pollen and nectar so that honey will be made. They will fly up to five miles to get nectar and pollen. Isn’t that amazing that they would go through all of that trouble just to get a specific nectar or pollen. How do they know where to go, you might ask? There is a scout bee who goes out in order to scout out which plants are reputable resources for nectar and pollen, and then the scout comes back to the colony to give the signal of where to go. The funny thing about the signal is that she actually does a dance in order to indicate where they should be going. It is good to know that the bees take that much pride in there work and that we are getting the best of the best when the honey is harvested. They also obtain jelly for the queen bee so that she can stay well nourished.
Once the nectar is brought back to the colony hive it is then passed from bee to bee until most of the moisture is soaked up and this actually makes it honey. The honey is then stored in the comb and plugged with bees wax. The pollen is used in conjuction with the nectar in order to make a bread for the larvae so that they grow in healthy and strong worker bees. When harvesting the honey you have to break most of those pockets to release the honey and Mr. Hartley said that he actually rolled over his in order to break the pockets. Once the honey is released it is put in a bucket for 24 hours until the foam rises to the top and the honey settles to the bottom. The honey is then drained until foam starts to show and once foam starts to show the process is stopped until it resettles to the top. The harvested honey is then jarred up and ready to go out.
I think that this is a very fascinating process and I hope you do too. Not only was the process great but there was an invitation to let the kids come out to Mr. Hartley’s farm in the spring. I really hope that we can make this happen this year. Again, special shout out to Mr. Vaden Hartley of Tarboro, NC!!