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June 13, 2012     The Florala News
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June 13, 2012
 

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PAGE 8 THE FLORALA NEWS WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2012 m eee by Lisa Windham Honey bees busy at work in their hives can be found in the back yard of Lakewood, FL resident Dave Curran. He currently manages fifteen hives (nests) with each hold- ing between 20,000-60,000 bees. Each hive usually pro- duces around 50 pounds of honey. Curran's interest in bee- keeping began shortly af- ter he retired and moved back to the area. When he bdgan suffering from sinus problems and after many visits to doctors, he found out that he was allergic to bahia grass. His doctor ad- vised him to go home and find the most local honey, "as near to your backdoor as you can get" and start tak- ing a tablespoon each day. Upon following this advice and within two weeks, Cur- ran says his sinus problems improved. This, he said, re- ally peaked his interest in learning more about the art of beekeeping. Curran, age 72, is a re- tired airline captain and attended of the University of Georgia, graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute and is currently enrolled in Northwest Flori- da State University and the University of Florida. He is actively working toward a master beekeeping certifica- tion from the states of Ala- bama, Florida and Georgia. He is licensed to keep honey bees in Alabama and Flori- da. History suggests that honey bees were brought to i North America around 1622 by the early settlers. How- ever, rock and cave paint- ings indicate that man was HONEY... the finished product hunting and harvesting honey as far back as 6,000 BC. Today, beekeeping is spread over almost all the habitable parts of the world and according to official sta- tistics produces over 2 bil- lion pounds of honey a year from more than 50 million hives. This amounts to a $15 billion contribution to the economy. The United States is ranked third worldwide in honey production. Honey bees are social insects that depend on each other for survival. A hive consists of a queen bee (one per hive), worker bees (female) and drone bees (male). The average lffespan of the queen is 2-5 years, drone is seasonal (spring to fall) and worker 40-45 days (spring to summer) and 4-6 months (fall to winter). The only job of the drone is to mate with the queen to pro- duce offspring. Workers are responsible for nurturing the queen, protecting the hive, keeping it clean and flying thousands of miles to gather food. They will sting to protect the hive but die after doing so. The two ob- jectives of a hive are to sur- vive over the winter and to reproduce. To make one pound of honey, the colony of bees will visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 bees. An average worker bee makes about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. The bees forage for nectar/pollen usually within a 3.73 mile radius of the hive and some- times up to 6.21 miles and can fly up to 15 mph. Pol- len is gathered on the hind legs of the worker bees to be transported back to the hive and converted into food to feed the young larvae. i In addition to honey, a hive will produce wax (used as an ingredient in candles, soap and cosmetics), pollen (health food), propolis (med- ical properties and glue), apitherapy (human health aids) and royal jelly (health food). Propolis is used by the bees to cement holes and seal up the hive, it is gath- ered by worker bees from tree and shrub secretions. Honey bees must con- sume about 17-20 pounds of honey to be able to biochem- ically produce each pound of wax. The wax is formed into a comb of hexagons, it is used for nurturing offspring and storing honey. To ex- tract the honey, the combs are removed from the hive, the wax cap is removed and the combs are placed into an extractor. The honey is slung from the comb, col- lected and filtered. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including wa- ter and it never spoils. Bees are very important as they pollinate/cross pol- linate one-third of the crops, fruit and berries that people consume. They are the only insect that produces food for humans. The only continent that does not have bees is Antarctica. Curran said, "Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby and the human race could :learn alot from how a hive works together." ONE OF THE FIFTEEN beehives managed by Lakewood resident, Dave Curran. PANELS located inside the hive are removed to collect honey. PROPOLIS or "See glue" can be seer at the right of this photo. It is Used to seal up the hive and is gathered from tree and shrub secretions. BEES ENTER and leave the hive to go about their work of gathering pollen and nectar. WORKER BEES are shown capping off the honeycomb. STEPS IN THE HONEY MAKING PROCESS Honeybees visit flowers to gather nectar and pol- len, in doing so, pollen grains are transferred from one flower to another thus aiding pollination. The worker bee stores the nectar in a honey stomach, which is separate from her digestive stomach. When the honey stomach is full, the bee returns to the hive. The bees also collect pollen in hair-like "baskets" on the their hind legs, but nev- er on the same trip as gathering nectar. Pollen is mixed with honey to make food for the hive. Other workers meet the returning bee to receive her nectar, using a mouth to mouth transfer. En- zymes are added to the nectar in the bee's honey stomach to break the complex sugars into a simple sugar. It is barely recognized as honey at this point as it is nearly 80% water. Small droplets are deposited inside the hive awaiting final conversion to honey. This is an evaporation process aided by the 95 temperature maintained inside the hive and the movement of air across the honey combs. The bees coordinate fanning their wings to control the air movement until the honey reaches a 17-18% moisture con- tent. WHILE DISASSEMBLING THE HIVE for inspection, Curran uses a bee suit to protect himself from stinging bees. THE BEES ARE BUSY building the wax hexagon combs which they will fill with honey. The combs are capped with wax by the bees only when the honey is "ripe" and contains less than 18% water.