I’ve been thinking about bumblebees a lot lately. And I don’t know if it’s because it’s Spring or because I just learned that Gwenyth Paltrow is getting stung for beauty’s sake or because I have a hive in my chimney and the drones are making their way into my bed. But they’ve been biz-buzzing around in my mind (and my house).
On our road trip down to Florida in November, we stopped in Savannah for a spell and let. me. tell. you. That is one bee-crazy city. I counted at least three honey shops on our short walk through the historic district. One of the shops even had a window display featuring a mannequin sporting beekeeper-chic style.
Anyhow, it got me thinking that I honestly know little to nothing about beekeeping. I know that honey comes from honey bees (and not bumblebees or wasps) and that my friends in Portland made mead from their bees’ honey for the local brewery…but beyond that? I didnt even know if honey was the vomit or pee or poo of bees! What am I adding to my smoothies, I must know! So I explored the Internet hive for info and here’s what I extracted.
Beekeeping began thousands of years ago in Africa. Egyptians built clay or mud hives and once the honey was flowing, they smoked the bees out and collected the combs, destroying the hive in the process.
In the 18th century, Europeans began to uncover the ways of the honey bee and developed methods to preserve the hives and keep the bee colonies alive while harvesting their honey. From destruction (God Save the Queen Bee!) to preservation…and mead. I like where this is going.
Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was the first to engineer and patent the moveable comb box that we see today (you know, the one where you pull out the drawers). This made it easy to remove a honey-filled comb, extract the honey, and then replace the dry comb for refilling. So humane and efficient! He even wrote a book called The Hive and the Honey Bee, which kind of sounds like a cool indie band name.
From there, we went on to making honey big business. And now, backyard beekeeping is starting to see a comeback with local apiarists producing wildflower scented honey in adorable mason jars fastened with burlap and twine. Which incidentally make excellent wedding gifts. I know, I’ve gotten one.
Now I have a stinging suspicion that this question is still stuck in the back of your mind: is honey the pee, poo, or vomit of bees? Well folks, I can proudly say that we do not eat bee excrement! Honey-making is an entirely separate bee process and is enzymatically crafted in the appropriately named ‘honey sac’.