All my life, I used clover honey in my tea and in any baking dishes or any recipes that called for honey. The truth is I never really liked the taste of it. One day, I decided to try Wildflower Honey. I will never go back!
As you might have guessed, wildflower honey is from wildflowers and clover honey is from clover, the annoying green that has invaded your lawn!
I have also tried buckwheat honey and another variety called golden honey. Buckwheat honey comes from buckwheat. I liked it even less than clover honey. Golden honey comes from Goldenrod. Golden honey has a lemony note and goes well in tea with lemon. The ebeehoney website (link below) claims that their customers who have allergy issues prefer this type of honey because “goldenrod honey is taken off very late in the season when goldenrod is primarily the only plant in bloom.” So, can honey be taken as a treatment to lessen allergy symptoms? Probably not according to the Mayo Clinic. Still the idea isn’t so far-fetched.
Light-colored honeys like clover honey or orange blossom honey are higher-grade honeys. Dark colored honeys like buckwheat honey are lower grade honeys. This is according to Encarta Encyclopedia. Somewhat contrary to this is information from the website http://www.ebeehoney.com/HoneyVarieties.html which claims that darker honey has more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant properties compared to lighter honey. They also claim that honey variety tastes can vary due to rain amount, nectar sources, sunlight, etc. which all affect what flowers, plants, trees, are in bloom for the bees to collect nectar and pollen.
Why do bees make honey?
Bees make honey to feed their larvae (their young). They also make it to help them survive the winter months. It is similar to squirrels storing nuts for the winter. During the other seasons, their food source is pollen.
The honeybee is native to Asia and the Middle East and was introduced to North America by early European colonists. This bee is known as the European honeybee. By the mid-1800s, honeybees had become widespread. Today, they are on every continent except Antarctica. There are six other recognized species of honeybees: the Indian honeybee, Koschevnikov’s honeybee, the dwarf honeybee, the andreniform dwarf honey bee, the giant honey bee, and the mountain giant honey bee. (I wouldn’t want to run into him! Or, is it her?)
There are many races of the European honeybee. Races? That is what it says in my Encarta Encyclopedia. The most popular are the Italian, Carniolan, and Caucasian honeybee. How do you know when you’ve been stung by an Italian honeybee? When it stings you it says, “Batta Bing!” Just a small joke. Very small.
Africanized honeybees, also known as killer bees, are a hybrid of African and European races.
Honeybees exist in a very complex social community or colony. The queen bee is the only sexually productive female. She is the mother of all drones, worker bees, and future queens. She can lay as many eggs in a single day as her body weight, often exceeding 1500 eggs. She controls the sex of her offspring. Amazing, these creatures, aren’t they? No wonder they are among the most studied insects.
The queen mates with the drone honeybees. The drones don’t do anything but mate with the queen. They are the equivalent to a stud horse or George Hamilton. Once they mate with her in mid-air no less, they die. They make the slackers of the office world look busy.
The extreme opposite are the worker bees. They are workaholics. They keep the nest clean. They construct the honeycomb. They defend the nest. They collect the nectar, water, pollen, and propolis, a gummy substance used to seal the exterior of the nest. They convert the nectar to honey. They feed the larvae, queen, and drones. They control the temperature of the nest. You would think this would tire them out, but no, they communicate the location of food to other worker bees by “dancing!” Uh-oh, I feel another joke coming on. This must be why the BeeGees wrote the song, Staying Alive! “You must be dancing, yeah!” Anyway, in six weeks the dancing worker bees are dead. Would that be square dancing or the polka? Sorry, my dance card is full. Is Garth Brooks involved? You might want to think twice the next time you tell someone you are “as busy as a bee!”
By now, it is common knowledge that honey is bees’ “spit.” Well, not exactly. It’s actually worse than that! A worker bee, called a “field” bee, goes out to collect the nectar from flowers and puts it in its honey sac, which is an enlargement of its esophagus. It regurgitates the contents into the mouth of a “house” bee that deposits the nectar into a cell in the comb and carries out the tasks necessary to convert the nectar into honey. Encarta doesn’t go into the tasks of converting the nectar into honey. Could it be any worse than what we already know? All I know is that it goes from one bee’s mouth to another bee’s mouth and then into my mouth. Yum.
Wasps and hornets prey upon honeybees. Honeybees also fall prey to birds, cane toads, robber flies, bears, and the ferocious honey badger.
During the past 10 years, mites have killed thousands of honeybee colonies in North America. The mites live in the bee’s breathing tubes or on the outside of larvae and adults. Sometimes it seems like dust mites are in my breathing tubes so I can relate. Science is trying to develop tolerant strains of honeybees to replace the mite-susceptible ones. Menthol fumes can help reduce some mite infestations.
There are 20,000 species of bees worldwide. They are not on the endangered species list yet. If that ever becomes an issue, not only will we see a reduced sale of honey, but we will see a scarcity of such crops that rely on pollination to the tune of $10 billion annually in the United States.
Honey contains a natural presence of botulinum endospores. Children under one year old should not be given honey because their systems are not developed enough to handle the bacteria. Some adults shouldn’t eat honey if they are sensitive to pollen, celery, or other bee-related allergies.
Final words of advice: do the taste test to see which honey you prefer. When you see a bee, don’t swat at it, just get out of its way and don’t spray pesticides near them.