The Stranger

Since starting beekeeping this year, I've learned that honey-making is serious business. Did you know that in a lifetime, a honeybee on average produces only five drops of honey? It takes 12 honeybees to make one teaspoon of honey, and bees need to visit about two million flowers to collect enough nectar to produce one pound of honey! My eyes are opened: I will never waste another bit o' honey again.

Bees are amazing. They have a complex society, and every bee has a job to do. Forager bees, the ones that go out to gather pollen and nectar, fly 10 to 15 trips a day, covering up to six miles. When a bee returns to the hive, she communicates with the other bees through her movements. If the area was subpar, she will be halfhearted in her efforts to recruit others for a trip back. But if the find was outstanding, she will do an energetic dance that indicates the distance and directions for getting there. Bee dancing!

I have a lot of respect for bees, but it won't keep me from harvesting their honey to eat. I've been working hard, too—monitoring the health of the bees, adding hive boxes, wearing my bee suit. I take some for me, but I leave most of it for them to eat (a healthy group needs more than 50 pounds of honey to get through the winter).

Even if you can't keep bees yourself, you can participate in honey-making by planting flowers, herbs, fruit trees, and flowering bushes. And kudos to the people who let their outside areas go a bit wild—the bees love blooming blackberry, dandelion, and clover. You are feeding the bees, and the bees are feeding you.

You can also support bees and help pollination in our area by buying local honey. Make some honey cornbread, or baked pears, or baklava, or honey cake, or bananas flambé, or honey on fruit and yogurt, or honey butter—and enjoy the delicious sweetness that took thousands of bees and millions of flowers to make. recommended