By Farah Masani
Barcelona Wine Bar will be raising their very own honey bees.
A few weeks ago we were approached by Tim Cernigilia, a beekeeper from Greenwich and a disciple of Andrew Cote, asking us if we wanted to raise bees on the rooftops of our restaurants to have our very own honey. Of course, I jumped at this opportunity. I mean, why would anyone not want to raise honey bees? What with all their benefits…
After talking with Andy and Tim, we decided it would be best if we raised the bees off-site instead of raising them at each location. I would not want one of our guests to get stung by a bee! Ouch! Instead, we installed the hives at my farm and together Tim, the beekeeper, and I will raise the bees for Barcelona.
Now, I am no expert beekeeper. In fact, I don’t know much about raising them. For that, you will have to go to the experts.
Andrew Cote, “the industry’s legend” and fourth generation beekeeper from CT can teach you all that you need to know. I was introduced to him by Lori Cochran from the Westport Farmer’s Market – an introduction I absolutely value. Andrew’s honey come from roof tops, balconies, community gardens, in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Fairfield County’s very own Maria Marchese, beekeeper, author, honey sommelier and founder of Red Bee Honey, should be your first stop if purchasing local honey. Marina is changing the way people think about honey by selling single nectar source artisanal honeys like alfalfa, blueberry blossom, orange blossom and star thistle. Red Bee also offers a line of of all natural, hand-blended, skin care products based upon ancient apitheraphy remedies that include beeswax, olive oil and essential oils.
Three reasons why I encourage people to raise their own bees:
1. Honey. Did you know that one honey bee will make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her life time, which is about 6 weeks? But a beehive can get you up to 60 lbs. of honey in one season. Consuming honey has many health benefits like, creating a resistance to allergies, improving the immune system, promoting good body and digestive health, just to name a few. Honey is also an incredible antioxidant.
2. Wax. Bees convert their food into wax. There are many uses for bees wax. Candles, cosmetics, creams, lipstick and lip balm for example.
3. Pollination. Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell, bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value in the U.S. and honey bees are responsible for approx. 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops. Without them, crops wouldn’t be pollinated and we’d have no food.
Beeswax is a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic and works wonders in lip balm. Here’s how I make my lip balm at home:
All you need is some good oil (almond, grape seed, coconut or olive are my favorite) and some beeswax. You can get this from a health food store or a local beekeeper.
Mix 1 tablespoon beeswax to 3 tablespoons of oil. Slowly warm it up to melt it. You can use a double boiler, a microwave on low or in a warm oven stirring occasionally. After it has melted, pour into a tin box or an old lip balm container to set. I sometimes add a couple drops of honey to add a flavor to it or a couple drops of raspberry extract. You can add whatever flavor you want.
Raising bees requires minimal work. Unlike other farm animals, they can feed themselves; clean their own hives, fetch water, and make their own food. They even patch their own leaky roofs. Honey bees are a mysterious because they have remained unchanged for millions of years even though the world has changed around them.
Another byproduct of bee hives are honey combs.
Honeycombs are hexagonal wax cells built by honey bees within their nests to contain their larvae and stores of honey and pollen. Typically, beekeepers remove the entire honeycomb to harvest the raw honey. Sometimes, the fresh new honeycombs are eaten intact.
Chef Helton, at our Fairfield Barcelona, serves a piece of raw honeycomb with some Cana de Cabra (goat cheese) and roasted walnuts.
How do you enjoy your honey?
If you feel inspired to have your own hives, look up the Back Yard Beekeepers Association and ask for Leslie Huston.
Stay tuned. I will be sharing the developments of the hives as the season progresses.
Here are some fun facts about bees I thought you may enjoy.
- A hive can consist of up to 100,000 bees.
- The queen is the sole female in the hive with fully developed organs, making her the only bee in the hive that can lay eggs.
- Honey bees have to travel over 55,000 miles and visit approx. 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
- Honeybees fly about 10 miles per hour
- Honey bee colonies have unique odors that are checked at the door, like ID cards, so the guard bees can recognize the entering bees and give them permission to enter.
- About 5 to 7 pounds of honey are consumed by bees to produce 1 pound of beeswax.
- Honey bees will usually travel approximately 3 miles from their hive to gather nectar and pollen.
- A honeybee flaps its wings about 11,400 times per minute.
- The “buzz” that you hear is the bee’s way of letting you know that it is agitated. Honeybees are the only kind of bees that die after they sting a person.
- Honeybees are vegetarian when they forage for nectar and pollen, but can eat their own brood when stressed.
- Honey helps heal and combats infections.
- Honey does not go bad – EVER.
Farah Masani is a farmer living in Wilton, CT who, in addition to farming, is on the staff of Barcelona Restaurant Group where she is responsible for local sourcing. In July she launched the Barcelona Farmigo CSA program to provide the restaurant’s patrons and greater community with a convenient and flexible way to purchase more sustainably grown local food. Farah previously worked as a farm manager at Millstone Farm in Wilton.