Beekeeping Posts

Honey vs. Sugar for Athletes: A Sweet Showdown

Athletes know the importance of fueling their bodies during grueling workouts and competitions. That’s why sports drinks and energy gels, packed with sugar, electrolytes, and other performance-enhancing ingredients, have become staples in nearly every athlete’s toolbox. But what if there was a natural, healthier alternative that could actually outperform these conventional options?

Enter honey. This golden nectar, beloved for its taste and versatility, turns out to be a hidden weapon in the athlete’s arsenal. While the global market for sports drinks and energy gels stands at a staggering $28 billion and $500 million respectively, honey offers a compelling combination of benefits that make it a serious contender for the top spot.

The Science Behind the Buzz:

Both sports drinks and energy gels typically rely on sucrose, a simple sugar that provides a quick burst of energy. However, this burst is often followed by a dreaded crash, leaving athletes feeling sluggish and depleted. Honey, on the other hand, throws a one-two punch with its unique composition. It contains both glucose and fructose, sugars that the body absorbs differently:

  • Glucose: This readily available sugar provides an immediate energy boost, just like sucrose. Think of it as the first responder in your body’s energy crisis.
  • Fructose: This slow-burning sugar is a marathon runner, delivering sustained energy over a longer period. It’s like having a built-in backup battery that keeps you going when the initial glucose rush fades.

This dual action of honey ensures a longer-lasting, more consistent energy supply compared to pure sugar. Studies have shown that honey can improve athletic performance in various ways, including:

  • Reduced fatigue: Honey’s sustained energy release helps athletes push harder for longer, delaying the onset of fatigue.
  • Increased endurance: By keeping blood sugar levels stable, honey prevents the dreaded energy crashes that can derail performance.
  • Improved glycogen replenishment: Glycogen is the body’s primary fuel storage for muscles. Honey helps replenish glycogen stores more effectively after exercise, aiding recovery.

Beyond the Basics:

Honey’s advantages extend beyond its sugar composition. Unlike sports drinks and gels, which are often packed with artificial ingredients, honey is a natural product. It contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can further benefit athletes:

  • Vitamins: B vitamins, essential for energy metabolism, are naturally present in honey.
  • Minerals: Electrolytes like potassium, crucial for muscle function and nerve transmission, are found in honey.
  • Antioxidants: These compounds help combat exercise-induced oxidative stress and promote recovery.

And honey comes with its own delicious flavor, eliminating the need for artificial sweeteners and colorings.

DIY or Premade? You Choose:

The best part? You can easily incorporate honey into your sports nutrition routine. Make your own energy gels by mixing honey with a sodium-potassium supplement and store them in portable plastic bags. Or, opt for the convenience of pre-packaged honey sports gels like those from Honey Stinger, which offer a variety of natural and effective formulations.

 

So, the next time you reach for that sugary sports drink or gel, remember the power of the humble honeybee. This natural wonder offers a delicious, healthy, and performance-enhancing alternative that can help you achieve your athletic goals without compromising your well-being. Give honey a try, and you might just discover your new secret weapon for conquering your next workout or competition.

The Father of Modern Beekeeping

As we approach Fathers’ Day at Wildflower Meadows, we want to take this opportunity to honor the “Father of Modern Beekeeping.”

François Huber (1750-1831) was a Swiss naturalist and entomologist who and widely considered the father of modern beekeeping.  Huber’s most important contribution to beekeeping was the development of the “leaf hive.” This hive allowed him to observe the behavior of honey bees without disturbing the hive. The leaf hive consisted of a series of frames that could be removed from the hive without destroying the comb. This allowed Huber to study the development of the brood, the production of honey and wax, and the behavior of the queen bee.

Before François Huber invented the leaf hive in 1789, beekeeping was a much more difficult and haphazard practice. Beekeepers used a variety of hives, including skeps, log gums, and box hives. These hives were all fixed-comb hives, meaning that the bees built their combs directly on the walls of the hive. This made it difficult for beekeepers to inspect the hive or harvest the honey without destroying the comb.

The invention of the leaf hive by François Huber was a major breakthrough in beekeeping. The leaf hive was a movable-frame hive, meaning that the frames could be removed from the hive without destroying the comb. This made it much easier for beekeepers to inspect the hive, harvest the honey, and manage the colony.

Huber’s work paved the way for the development of modern beekeeping methods. His leaf hive was the precursor to the Langstroth hive, which is the most widely used hive today. Langstroth hive is based on the same principle as the leaf hive, with frames that can be removed from the hive without destroying the comb. This allows beekeepers to inspect the hive and manage the colony without harming the bees.

Huber’s observations revolutionized our understanding of honey bees. He showed that the queen bee is the only female that can lay eggs, and that the drones (male bees) are only used for reproduction. He also showed that the worker bees are responsible for all of the other tasks in the hive, such as gathering food, caring for the young, and building the comb.

Huber’s work was published in two volumes, “New Observations on Bees” (1809) and “Further Observations on Bees” (1814). These books were translated into many languages and became essential reading for beekeepers around the world.  Today’s beekeepers owe much to François Huber. His pioneering research laid the foundation for modern beekeeping and helped to make honey bees a valuable part of our ecosystem.

Honeybee Larvae

When we think of a honeybee, we typically envision the familiar image of a buzzing, pollen-laden insect diligently collecting nectar from flowers. However, behind this seemingly ordinary creature lies an extraordinary transformation, a journey through a series of distinct stages that showcase the wonders of metamorphosis.

Unlike many animals that develop gradually from birth to adulthood, honeybees undergo a complete metamorphosis, a process that involves radical changes in form and behavior. This incredible transformation begins with an unassuming egg, a tiny white pearl measuring about 1.5 millimeters in length.

After three days of incubation, the egg hatches, revealing a legless, grub-like larva. This seemingly rudimentary creature holds the potential for remarkable growth and development. Over the next seven days, the larva consumes a voracious amount of food, primarily a protein-rich liquid secreted by young nurse bees. This diet fuels a staggering growth spurt, leading to a 1,500-fold increase in size.  This is comparable to a mouse transforming into a german shepherd in seven days!

As the larva grows, it undergoes six molts, shedding its outer skin to accommodate its expanding body. Unlike the adult bee, the larva lacks an excretory system, and its waste is stored within its body. This waste will later be expelled when the larva transitions into the pupa stage.

After approximately seven days, the well-fed larva spins a silken cocoon and enters the pupa stage, a period of remarkable transformation. During this stage, the larva’s body undergoes a complete reorganization, developing wings, legs, and other adult structures. The larva’s digestive system is also modified, allowing for the passage of waste.

After about 11 days within the cocoon, the pupa emerges as a fully formed adult bee. This remarkable transformation marks the culmination of the honeybee’s metamorphosis, a journey that has taken it from a tiny egg to a buzzing, productive member of a complex social colony.

How to Hold and Mark a Queen Honeybee

At Wildflower Meadows, we regularly need to hold and handle the queens we are raising. For example, queens must be caught and put into their traveling cages. In addition, they need to be held for marking, and sometimes, they need to be placed above or below a queen excluder for various reasons.

Beekeepers, especially new beekeepers, often wonder how to do this without damaging the queen or getting stung.

Handling a queen requires a bit of dexterity and concentration underneath abundant care and compassion for the queen herself. The beekeeper must always be careful. From a queen honeybee’s perspective, we beekeepers are clumsy giants that can injure fragile body parts with the slightest erroneous move. The queen honeybee is a small and delicate creature—and we should never forget that.

A queen honeybee has three main parts to her body: the head, thorax, and abdomen. If a queen is to be handled, the beekeeper must know that the most robust part of her body is her thorax, which is the hard, dark area that separates her head from her abdomen. On the other hand, the most sensitive parts of the queen are her head and her long, delicate abdomen. A queen bee’s abdomen is soft, fragile, and filled with all the queen’s vital reproductive parts. When a beekeeper mishandles a queen, it is most often because they apply pressure on the abdomen. This must be avoided. The best place, by far, to hold a queen is by her thorax.

Surprisingly, a queen’s wings are sturdy. Holding her by her wings is the next best way to grasp a queen. A skilled beekeeper can safely pick up a queen by grasping her two wings together without putting pressure on any other body part. This is typically how our beekeepers here at Wildflower Meadows handle queens for marking, as it leaves the thorax exposed for the mark.

If a queen bee is picked up by the wings, she may start to squirm. However, if she is given a soft and comfortable surface to place her legs on, she will hold her body still and relax. When marking a queen, we typically grasp the two wings, then encourage the queen bee to rest her legs either on one of our other fingers (usually the ring finger) or on our thigh. Once her feet are grabbing onto something, her demeanor becomes relaxed. It is then easy to mark her thorax.

For beekeepers who want to handle their queen bees for marking, a trick of the trade is to learn to pick up a queen with one’s nondominant hand (the left hand for a right-hander). This frees the writing hand to draw the mark with greater dexterity and control. Once the queen is marked, placing her into a cage is relatively straightforward by guiding the top half of her body into the hole of the cage. If over half of her body is already through the hole, she almost always naturally follows through and enters on her own when released.

Queen honeybees are exceptionally gentle and non-aggressive with beekeepers. For all intents and purposes, they don’t seem to ever want to sting people. Even though a queen bee has a stinger, which she doesn’t hesitate to use against other queen bees, the likelihood of her stinging a beekeeper is almost zero. We have beekeepers here at Wildflower Meadows who have handled tens of thousands of queens and have not ever been stung a single time by a queen honeybee!

Three Sizes of Honey Supers – Which is Right for You?

In beekeeping, the boxes placed on top of a beehive used exclusively for honey collection are called “supers.” There are three sizes of honey supers commonly available: shallow, medium, and deep. The only difference between the sizes is their height, which affects how much honey they can store. Supers are can be made smaller than regular deep bee boxes, meaning that they weigh less and are easier to maneuver. Shallow supers are 5-5/8” in height; medium supers are 6-5/8”; and deep supers are 9-5/8”. Respectively, each size can hold approximately 30, 50, and 70-80 pounds of honey.

Shallow supers are the smallest of the three sizes, and they are typically used for collecting comb honey. Comb honey is honey that is still in its natural honeycomb cells. Shallow supers are also a good choice for beekeepers who are just starting out, as they are easier to manage than medium or deep supers.

Medium supers are the most popular size of super, and they are a good all-around choice for beekeepers. They are large enough to store a good amount of honey, but they are still relatively easy to manage. Medium supers are also a solid choice for beekeepers who want to produce both comb honey and extracted honey.

Deep supers are the largest of the three sizes, and they are typically used for brood rearing. Brood rearing is the process of raising new bees. Deep supers are also a good choice for beekeepers who want to produce a lot of honey, as they can store a large amount. However, deep supers are also the heaviest of the three sizes, so they can be difficult to manage for some beekeepers.

The best way to choose the right size of super for your needs is to consider your own needs and limits. If you are just starting out, a shallow super is a good choice. If you are looking for a versatile super that can be used for both comb honey and extracted honey, a medium super is a good choice. And if you want to produce a lot of honey, a deep super is a good choice.

Here are some additional factors to consider when choosing the right size of super:

  • The size of your hive
  • The type of honey you want to produce
  • Your own physical strength

Supers are a crucial piece of equipment in beekeeping, and they can be used in a variety of combinations based on your needs and preferences. The most common arrangement for a basic hive is 2 deep boxes, placing the honey supers on top for honey collection. The second most common arrangement is 1 deep box on the bottom paired with 1 medium, with the honey supers on top for honey production.

Protecting the Precious Brood: A Beekeeper’s Guide to Keeping Bees Warm

For beekeepers, the sight of a hive teeming with life is a source of immense joy. But within that bustling colony lies a hidden vulnerability: the brood, the delicate larvae and pupae that represent the future of the hive. Though tucked away in capped cells, these seemingly motionless forms are very much alive, and their well-being hinges on one crucial factor: warmth.

Imagine a cozy 93 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that cradles the brood in perfect comfort. Dip below 80 degrees, and the tiny bodies begin to suffer. The cold saps their energy, hinders their development, and in the worst-case scenario, chills them to death.

This chilling tragedy forces the bees into a frantic cleanup operation, removing the fallen brood from the hive. It’s a gut-wrenching loss, not just in terms of bees, but also in the wasted energy and time expended by the colony.

Late winter and early spring are the most perilous times for the brood. The queen, eager for the warmth of spring, ramps up egg-laying, but the colony’s population is still recovering from the harsh winter. A sudden cold spell or even a careless inspection by a well-meaning beekeeper can send temperatures plummeting, putting the fragile brood at risk.

So, how can beekeepers be the guardians of warmth? Here are some key tips:

  • Resist the urge to inspect on chilly days. When temperatures dip below 50 degrees, keep the disruptions to a minimum. Let the bees focus on maintaining their internal furnace.
  • Quick peeks only. If an inspection is absolutely necessary, make it swift and minimize exposing the brood to the cold. Remember, every second counts.
  • Keep the brood tucked in. Don’t leave frames of brood outside the hive any longer than necessary, especially in windy conditions. Let the warmth of the bee cluster be their haven.
  • Ventilation is key. Proper ventilation allows moisture to escape, preventing condensation that can drip onto the brood and turn into a deadly freeze. Fresh air, yes, but frosty drafts, no.

By following these simple steps, beekeepers can become champions of the brood, ensuring that the hive’s future generation emerges strong and vibrant. Remember, a little vigilance goes a long way in keeping those precious bees warm and the colony buzzing with life.

Expanding Your Beekeeping: The Benefits of a Second Bee Yard

As an experienced beekeeper, you’ve nurtured your hives and witnessed the wonder of their industriousness. But as your bee population grows, you may find yourself contemplating the merits of establishing a second apiary (bee yard).

One compelling reason to establish a second apiary is to alleviate competition for nectar and pollen sources among your hives. When too many bees are concentrated in a single area, they may become stressed and engage in robbing behavior, where they invade other hives to steal their resources.  By distributing your colonies across two locations, you effectively reduce the strain on local nectar and pollen sources. This allows individual hives to thrive and gather more resources, ultimately leading to increased honey production. Studies have shown that maintaining smaller colonies in multiple apiaries yields higher honey yields compared to a single, large apiary.

A second apiary offers a crucial layer of flexibility and resilience in managing your bee population. If one apiary becomes temporarily unavailable due to pesticide spraying, neighbor complaints, or unforeseen circumstances, the other apiary can act as a reliable backup. This safeguards your beekeeping operation and ensures a continuous supply of honey.

When selecting a site for your second bee yard, consider a location that is at least 2-3 miles away from your original apiary. This distance minimizes the risk of bees from one apiary drifting back to the other, causing confusion and potential conflict. Additionally, the location should be within a reasonable travel distance to facilitate regular inspections and maintenance.

Acquiring a suitable location for your second apiary can be achieved through various means. Networking with friends and acquaintances may yield potential sites. Groves and orchards often welcome beekeepers for pollination services. Consider placing advertisements in farm journals or online agricultural forums to reach a wider audience.

Landowners may be more receptive to hosting your beehives if you offer honey in exchange for the use of their property. This mutually beneficial arrangement not only provides landowners with a valuable commodity but also demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a harmonious relationship.

Establishing a second bee yard marks an exciting step in your beekeeping journey. By diversifying your apiary locations, you can reap the rewards of increased honey production, enhanced flexibility, and reduced risks. Embrace the challenge of expanding your beekeeping horizons and witness the flourishing of your bees.

What is a Walkaway Split?

A walkaway split is a method of splitting a honeybee colony into two colonies without using a queen excluder. It is a relatively simple process that can be done by any beekeeper, even beginners.

To perform a walkaway split, start by inspecting the colony that you wish to split. Find the queen bee and make sure that she stays with the original colony.  Then remove about half of the frames from the hive. These frames should contain brood, eggs, and honey.

Transfer the frames to an empty colony. Make sure to place the frames in the same order as they were in the original hive.  After transferring the frames to the new colony, add empty frames to the original colony to replace what was taken.  Put the lid on the original colony and place it in a different location.

The new colony will now be in the location of the original colony.  Now you can introduce a new queen to the new colony.  Over the next few weeks, the bees in the new colony will begin to grow into a separate colony of their own with a new queen.

How to Use a Walkaway Split

A walkaway split can be used to increase the number of colonies in your apiary, to create a new colony from a strong colony, or to split a colony that is too large.  To use a walkaway split, you will need to choose a colony that is strong and healthy. The colony should have a well-performing queen and plenty of brood.  Once you have chosen a colony, you can start the split by following the steps outlined above.

Walkaway splits are a relatively simple way to increase the number of colonies in your apiary. They are also a good way to create a new colony from a strong colony.  They are relatively easy to create and they do not require any special equipment.  With a little care and attention, you can prepare walkaway splits to increase the number of colonies in your apiary and to create strong and healthy colonies.

How Far do Honeybees Fly?

The distance that honeybees fly depends on a number of factors, including the availability of food, the weather conditions, and the age and fitness of the bee.

Honeybees fly farther for nectar than for pollen or water. The average distance that a honey bee flies to collect nectar is 2 to 3 miles, while the average distance that they fly to collect pollen is 1 to 2 miles. Honeybees fly even shorter distances to collect water, typically flying less than 1 mile.

There are a few reasons why honeybees fly farther for nectar than for pollen or water. First, nectar is the main source of food for honey bees. They need nectar to produce honey and to feed the larvae in the hive. Pollen is also an important food source for honey bees, but it is not as essential as nectar. Honey bees can survive for several days without pollen, but they will only survive for a few hours without nectar.

Second, nectar is more concentrated than pollen or water. This means that honey bees can carry more nectar in a single trip than they can pollen or water. For example, a honey bee can carry up to 70 milligrams of nectar in a single trip, while it can only carry up to 25 milligrams of pollen or 40 milligrams of water.

Finally, nectar is more available than pollen or water. Pollen is only available during certain times of the year, and it is not always available in large quantities. Water is also not always available, especially in dry climates. Nectar, on the other hand, is available year-round and in most climates.

Weather can also affect the distances that bees will fly.  Bees fly shorter distances when the weather is inclimate.  Honeybees are cold-blooded insects, so their body temperature is regulated by the temperature of their surroundings. In cold weather, their muscles become stiff and their wings become less efficient, making it difficult for them to fly. Rain can also weigh them down and make it harder for them to keep their balance. Additionally, rain can wash away the nectar and pollen that honey bees need to collect. Wind can also blow honey bees off course and make it harder for them to control their flight. Finally, in bad weather, the availability of pollen may be lower because the weather conditions may make it difficult for flowers to open and release their pollen.

The age of the bee often factors in to how far a bee will fly.  Young honeybees fly longer distances than older honeybees for a few reasons. First, young honeybees are more energetic and have more stamina than older honeybees. This is because they are still young and have not yet used up their energy reserves.  Additionally, young honeybees are more likely to be inexperienced and eager to explore, which can lead them to fly longer distances in search of food.

Buckwheat Honey & Christmas Cookies

At Wildflower Meadows, our friends and customers often ask us if we have any extra buckwheat honey for Christmas cookies.  Many honey connoisseurs insist that dark, rich, buckwheat honey is perfect for baking.

Buckwheat has a strong, distinctive flavor that is often described as malty or earthy.  It is dark and is often considered a “baking honey.”  Bakers use buckwheat honey for Christmas cookies, but here are some other tips for using buckwheat honey:

    • Add it to tea or coffee for a sweet and flavorful boost.
    • Spread it on toast or pancakes for a healthy and delicious breakfast.
    • Add it to smoothies or yogurt for a nutrient-rich snack.
    • Use it as a natural cough suppressant.

There are two main types of buckwheat plants: common buckwheat and tartary buckwheat.  Common buckwheat is the most prevalent type of buckwheat plant grown in the United States. It is a tall, erect plant with heart-shaped leaves and white, pink, or purple flowers. Common buckwheat is grown for its seeds, which are used to make buckwheat groats, noodles, and other foods. It is also grown as a cover crop, which means that it is planted to improve the soil and suppress weeds. Common buckwheat can be found in many parts of the United States, but it is most typically found in the Midwest and Northeast.

Tartary buckwheat flowers are white or pink, while common buckwheat flowers are white, pink, or purple. This is the type of buckwheat that our bees visit at Wildflower Meadows.  Tartary buckwheat is a smaller type of buckwheat plant with narrower leaves and white or pink flowers. Tartary buckwheat is not as common as common buckwheat, but it is grown in some parts of the United States, especially the West. This is the type of buckwheat that our bees visit at Wildflower Meadows.  The nectar from both types of buckwheat flowers is used to make honey. However, buckwheat honey made from tartary buckwheat is typically darker and has a stronger flavor than buckwheat honey made from common buckwheat.

Tartary Buckwheat

Besides being delicious, Buckwheat honey is a good source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  Buckwheat honey is also a good source of minerals, including iron, magnesium, and potassium. Iron is important for red blood cell production, magnesium is important for muscle function, and potassium is important for heart health.