By Dustin Owen

n every jar of honey, we find more than just a delicious treat; it serves as a testament to the vital partnership between bees and beekeepers—a relationship as essential to the ecosystem as the air we breathe.

The path to honey begins with flowers, which attract bees with their vibrant colors and enticing nectar. Guided by instinct, bees collect the nectar using specialized tongues, inadvertently facilitating pollination as they move from flower to flower. One bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers in one day. “Bees are very particular on what they get,” says William Hummer, owner and main beekeeper of Hummer & Son Honey. “They’ll only go out and get the sweetest sugar source that’s available. Once they find that, they come back, do their little dance, and tell all their little sisters, ‘Go to this spot. This is where the good stuff’s at.’”

Back at the hive, the bees meticulously process the collected nectar, transforming it into honey through enzymatic processes. The ripened honey is then carefully stored in the hive’s honeycomb cells, sealed with beeswax to preserve its purity and flavor. When the time comes, beekeepers harvest the honey through gentle processing, paying homage to the bees’ diligent efforts.

But the process is not without its challenges. Weather is a big one; cold snaps in late winter/early spring like we faced last year can stunt the growth season, offering less food for the bees. Parasites like the varroa mite can also wreak havoc on hives. “Our bees start raising young so early and continue through October,” Hummer said. “So, we don’t have a period where we can go and treat and try to knock the mites back. But we have treatments now we can use that are safe when the bees are collecting honey.”

In our area of the country, beekeepers harvest twice each year. The spring harvest lasts from the middle of March through mid-June, producing honey from clover, willow, and hairy vetch wildflowers. The second harvest occurs from mid-June to September, with bees producing darker honey from ratan, woods, vetch, sunflower, astor, and goldenrod wildflowers. Louisiana bee colonies produce an average of 115 pounds of honey each year. 

So, the next time you stir a spoonful of honey into your tea or drizzle it onto your French toast, take a moment to reflect on the journey it took from the buzzing fields of blooming flowers to you, and appreciate the vital role of bees and beekeepers in bringing this golden elixir to your table.

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