The beautiful and complex world of honey bees is something to admire. Our appreciation for these little creatures that produce delicious honey and pollinate so many plants was greatly heightened after a visit with Sara Bedillion, co-owner of Bedillion Honey Bee Farm located in Hickory, PA. Hickory is about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in Washington County, PA.
”The biggest little honey shop in Pennsylvania.”
From the roadside, Bedillion Honey Bee Farm looks small but once inside there are many interesting things to explore along with resources about bees and beekeeping, books, beeswax, ornaments, wide varieties of honey, and more. In the corner, there is a framed box housing a hexagon-shaped honeycomb made from beeswax with many honey bees at work. This display enables viewers to watch the bees at work safely without the fear of getting stung.
We learned so much about the amazing world of honey bees from Sara Badillion, starting with the queen bee.
The queen, known as the mother of bees, is an egg-laying machine. The queen bee literally lays thousands of eggs in a single day. In the hive exhibit, we saw that the queen is slightly larger than a worker bee and can be recognized by a green spot of colored paint on the thorax. The thorax is the back of the bee, just between her wings. As the queen inspects the cells in the comb, she will select the right-sized cell in which to lay eggs. A healthy queen decides which eggs will be fertilized. Non-fertilized eggs are males, also known as drones. Fertilized eggs are females and become worker bees, and potentially a queen bee.
Nutrition is important for the development of bees, starting with royal jelly.
Royal jelly is a secretion produced in the head glands of nurse bees and is fed to all the larvae in the colony for the first few days, regardless of sex or caste. Worker larvae are then switched to a diet of honey and pollen, while the queen bee larvae will continue to be fed royal jelly throughout her life.
A strong healthy bee colony occurs when collecting nectar takes place in the spring and autumn.
Nectar is primarily made up of water as bees pursue wild forage from blossoming trees and wildflowers. When a worker bee locates a good source of nectar or pollen she will return to the hive to perform a waggle dance, letting her nest mates know that she has found a good source of nectar and will direct them to that source.
Once the bees have completed the process of collecting nectar and producing honey, the honey is then harvested.
The majority of nectar gathering halts in the summer as moisture level is low and there is little flower or tree blossoming. The honey harvesting process begins by removing excess frames of honey and cutting off the beeswax caps to reveal the honey. The honeycomb frames are put into a centrifuge that spins the comb which enables gravity to draw the honey to the bottom. After the “liquid gold” has been spun out of the honeycomb, it is time to strain and bottle. It is interesting to know that regular honey can undergo a variety of processes, possibly removing beneficial nutrients like pollen and reducing its level of antioxidants.
Managing beehives includes inspecing the boxes, extracting honey, and ensuring that bees have the proper amount of space for honey production.
Sara was gracious to film her honey bees in action. It was fascinating to learn that the honey bees know Sara’s scent, as many were swarming around her while filming and she did not get stung.
Raw honey retains most of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants that it naturally contains and has no additives, preservatives, or other ingredients — making it the real deal.
There are many varieties of honey. Honey varieties include: Sweet Clover, Buckwheat, Lavender, Spring Blossom, Wildflower, Hot Chili Infused, Japanese Knotweed, and Creamed Honey. The light to dark colors, grade, and viscosity depend upon the wildflowers where the nectar was collected from in the spring and the fall.
There are many beneficial uses of honey.
- Honey can be used medicinally; some clinical research shows that honey may help heal wounds and burns, fight infections, and alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
- For seasonal allergies, 1-2 teaspoons of locally sourced honey taken daily may shorten allergic reactions or help with alleviating allergic reactions altogether.
- Honey mask is a natural cosmetic that contains small amounts of gluconic acid and other alpha-hydroxy acids — which gently remove dead skin cells, moisturize, and brighten the complexion.
This is an Elixir recipe I have shared with family and friends for years during the cold, flu, and allergy seasons.
Bragg’s Apple Cider Elixir
1 tablespoon Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother (see note)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 – 1 cup of hot water
Mix ingredients in a coffee cup and add hot water. Stir and enjoy while warm.
Note: Apple Cider Vinegar with the “mother” is a cloudy vinegar with enzymes, nutrients, and beneficial bacteria. It can be found in your local grocery or health food store and online.
We thank Sara for our visit to the Bedillion Honey Farm, her time, and for sharing her knowledge of bees and beekeeping. The benefits of buying honey locally is to support our beekeepers who have made a business of not only selling honey but teaching us the importance, value, and relevance of supporting bees as well as helping those of us who would like to start their own personal or commercial venture into beekeeping. You can learn more about Bedillion Honey Farm at bedillionhoneyfarm.com