We use a lot of honey in our restaurants across the GTA, the most well-known example being our Honey Vanilla ice cream. The honey we use is produced right here in Canada, but the finer details involved in creating it remained a bit hazy for us – until now. We recently travelled to a few apiaries to learn more about our buzzy friends and the sweet nectar they make. Read on!
Let’s start with the apiary:
The word apiary just means a collection of beehives. Traditionally, wild bees build their hives in hollow trees and rock crevices from wax that they produce through their glands. These hives consist of numerous hexagonal tubes attached to one another and are used to store honey, nectar and pollen, as well as housing their larvae and bees-to-be.
Many beekeepers today use Langstroth hives to house their bees. Originating from an 1852 invention by Lorenzo Langstroth, this man-made hive involves a series of wooden boxes with removable frames inside. Bees can build their honeycomb into the frames, and beekeepers can easily manage the bees this way.
What about the honey?
One of the first things we learned is that not all beekeepers are necessarily producing honey for sale. While there’s no question that having bees means access to some of that sweet amber syrup, there are those with alternate goals in mind. We met a beekeeper who has made it their business to produce queen bees for those who want start their own hives. Yet another was interested in breeding bees with less defensive traits, in order to make them easier to manage for the average beekeeper.
When it comes to honey production, bees can fly over 15 kilometres away to gather nectar to turn into honey back at the hive. The nectar isn’t always coming from flowers either – sometimes bees will get into some unexpected goodies depending on where the apiary is located. One of the beekeepers mentioned that their bees had come across quite a bit of cola runoff months ago, and as a result had produced honey with a distinct cola flavour. Sound refreshing?
Unfortunately an average honey bee today will have to contend with a lot more hazards than their counterparts of yesteryear. A major issue plaguing our hardworking bees today is the vast amounts of pesticides that are being sprayed on our crops at an industrial scale. We rely on these hard workers to pollinate the majority of our crops in Canada, to the tune of $3.97 – $5.5 billion dollars annually according to Statistics Canada, but they’re suffering for it. Not only are pesticides highly toxic for bees and other small creatures, there’s also been links made between the use of a particular class (neonics) and the dramatic increase in honey bee colony collapses.
What can we do?
When it comes to maintaining our bee population, the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ comes to mind. By providing our buzzy friends with safe sources of nectar, we can not only ensure healthier bees, but also our own posterity. To find out how you can create your own bee friendly patch, please refer to this guide (page 15 lists a number of native Ontario plants to grow).
Thanks for joining us on our latest field trip, and make sure to check back later for more behind-the-scenes goodness as well as recipes and DIYs! And if all of this talk about honey has whipped up your appetite, pop over to our Instagram (@demetres) for some serious dessert eye-candy ☺