The full moon on 3rd August, known as the Sturgeon moon shone so brightly as we watched it rise from our beach hut in Hastings. The moon is named the sturgeon moon after the river fish that flow in abundance through the waters in north America. Here in Hastings, East Sussex we should call it the mackerel moon as the mackerel in August in our waters come in their thousands hunting white bait close to the shore. We call it the mackerel boil as the waters look like they are boiling. It's a wild encounter and us locals all get whipped up as we fish for plenty. They have beautiful silver and blue scales. When caught fresh out of the water and cooked that day on hot coals on the beach..the fish becomes more than sustenance.
Illustration by my friend Rachel Heavens, a local artist.
I have just extracted 30 or so honey frames from two hives and had come to the beach to see this moon and reflect on the reflection of bees and my involvement. The honey from the two hives is so different too (garden and woodland). I compare good quality honey to fine wine. The nectar stimulates the senses and the sweet honey subtle flavours communicate so many different floral tones.
I often tell the children and customers who buy my honey..
"Did you know it took 12 honey bees their whole life to make that one teaspoon of honey". This often triggers a wide eyed response and a little bit more appreciation of the value of this golden elixir.
So it got me pondering how many flowers have been visited to make that one teaspoon.
Then of course it depends on what flowers are in bloom and if the weather is favourable for the bees to forage on those flowers. So it's even more of a natural miracle when you take the bee mathematics that bit further....
The maths may not be exact but based on the books I have read and facts about bees as I add the facts together this is what I have come up with..
The female honey bee apparently forages on 100 flowers of the same type on each mission. This is why shrubs make such great pickings as there are abundance little flowers next to one another. So if you are thinking of what to plant for bees - flowering shrubs give you and the bees that feel good factor. It makes bee's buzzing from flower to flower filling their honey stomachs a more effective affair.
So little Miss honey Bee ( that's certainly not your work done for the day, its just one job as returns to the hive to drop off the forage from her honey sac. Miss Bee (along with her other helpful bee sisters will need to work out the angle of the sun in relation to where the next nectar flow is and then she is off another 19 times nectar shopping. No wonder the expression busy as a bee exists..
That would make all in a days work collecting nectar from
100 flowers visited x 20 trips = 2000 flower visits a day.
Now a foraging bee spends only two out of the six weeks of her life life foraging. Therefore2000 flowers a day x 14 days=28000 visits to flowers
So if it takes 12 bees their whole life to make a teaspoon of honey in total how many flowers go into that one teaspoon? That is of course if the honey is pure like ours. We do not feed our bees sugar (to get a greater yield or prop them up as we always leave them enough).
28000 flowers x 12 bees = 336,00 flowers
foraged by 12 honey bees in one teaspoon of Honey.
To summarise the maths:
100 flowers visited x 20 trips = 2000 flowers a day.
2000 flowers a day x 14 days=28000 visits to flowers
28000 flowers x 12 bees = 336,00 flowers by 12 bees in one teaspoon.
What can I say. Honey is a precious elixir.
I don't sell much of my honey and every pot I do sell I love talking to my customers about bees. I love also creating products that are natural and inspired by them too.
So support local. If you have hay-fever remember buying local honey and taking one teaspoon a day could help. Local unprocessed honey contains pollen from the bees so it helps hay-fever sufferers to build up an immunity. Honey of course also helps with colds and flu and as a general immune booster. I love using it in my skincare.
Here is a link to the British Beekeepers Association. This map is buzzing with bees just click on your area and you will discover where your local association is. Zoom in!
Get in touch with them and ask...is your honey RAW (which means it is unpasteurised and retains all its goodness). Secondly ask - do you need to feed your bee's sugar. This could suggest the beekeeper does so as they take too much from their bees and the quality of honey therefore is not as good as it should be.
Come and find me at Hastings Pier throughout August and September where i will be selling a small amount. Or get in touch to reserve a jar.
Thirdly if you are interested in beekeeping then you can visit your local association and do please look into sustainable beekeeping.
As August draws to a close, the colony will be reducing in size from 60,000 bees to 5,000 apparently. I don't know who has been doing all the counting.
The most important thing is leaving enough honey for the bees.