When I discovered every third bite of my food comes from a pollinator’s actions, I knew it was time to overcome my fear of bees and learn more about these fascinating creatures.
The honeybee — apis mellifera — seems to be in the news frequently as people’s interest in eating locally and in gardening grows.
Canada declared May 29 their first national honeybee day and the organization Apiaries and Bees for Communities is helping people install beehives in city backyards.
The honeybees seen around Alberta are the result of early tourists. Before the Europeans arrived in North America, there were no bees of the apis species in the New World.
Bees work hard to make honey — a half kg will take 25,000 trips from the flowers to the hive. The flavour of the honey comes from the flowers the bees visit; it is estimated that a half-kg of honey has the essence of two million flowers.
Only female worker bees gather pollen. Male drones mate with the queen and die.
Worker bees come from fertilized eggs, drones from unfertilized eggs, so technically drones have no fathers although they have a grandfather on their mother’s side!
Alberta produces two per cent of the world’s honey and three out the province’s seven wineries use honey to create their products.
Fermenting honey results in an alcoholic beverage called mead, a drink that people have enjoyed for hundreds of years.
If you would like to sample mead or learn more about the fascinating world of bees, try a day trip to one of these bee tourism attractions.
Spirit Hills Winery,
near Turner Valley
Spirit winery owners Isle and Hugo Bonjean started beekeeping to improve their farming.
An amateur wine and beer maker, Hugo experimented with honey as a base.
Now their wines can be found at some of the best hotels in Southern Alberta.
The Bonjeans use biodynamic farming principles — a practice that helps Hugo know when to put on his beekeeping suit.
“The bees are more stingy on root days.
“They are the calmest and friendliest on fruit and flower days. Even though I practise biodynamic farming in the garden, with the bees, I have to take any good weather I can and do not stick to the biodynamic calendar.
“I only keep an eye on it in order to know what kind of behaviour I might get from the bees on a certain day.”
Spirit Winery offers free tours but you need to call in advance.
Go to http://www.spirithillswinery.com for more information.
Chinook Honey Company,
You can watch bees without worrying about stings at the Chinook Honey Company’s observation hive.
They have honey products, a mead winery and a chance to learn about apitherapy — the medicinal use of honey products. Bees produce propolis from tree resins, sometimes called ‘nature’s penicillin.’
A special harvest event on Saturday, Aug. 24, offers tours, demonstrations, food and fun.
The site is closed Tuesdays.
Go to www.chinookhoney.com for more information.
All things bee-related can be found in this old general store.
Started by beekeeper Morley Winnick in 2007, Beeland sells honey and food products with a honey base. such as hot sauce, salsas, chili starter, jams, and canned fruits.
Morley says, “Our honey is predominately alpine wildflower honey. The bees are located on up to seven apiary sites throughout the region, and these sites produce quite unique and distinct flowers and nectar for honey.”
Several beehives sit near Beeland, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, with honey sweetener of course, while admiring the stunning view of Jubilee Mountain.
It is open every day.
Go to www.beeland.ca for more information.
Carol Patterson helps businesses and people reinvent themselves through adventure. When she isn’t travelling for work, Carol is travelling for fun. More of her adventures can be found at www.carolpatterson.ca.