Among the sugar maples and resident wildlife at River Trail Nature Center, many visitors may have heard the buzz of bees while visiting over the summer. That’s because volunteer beekeepers and Nature Center staff tend to bee hives on site!
River Trail Nature Center is home to eight to 10 bee hives, each with its own queen bee, 60,000-80,000 worker bees, and a few hundred drones. Each bee plays an important role in the honey production process. The queen bee can lay between 1,500 and 2,000 eggs per day, while the drone’s only job is to mate with the queen. Worker bees do all the work of the hive.
The female worker bees care for the larvae, guard and maintain the hive, and collect pollen, nectar and propolis, a sticky “glue” made from tree resin. These bees forage for nectar from nearby wildflowers, blossoms and surrounding forests, all of which will factor in the taste and aroma of the finished honey.
From season to season, the taste and aroma of River Trail’s wildflower honey will depend on which flowers dominate at the time the nectar is collected. River Trail’s honey is also raw, which means it isn’t heated, processed or pasteurized. Raw honey harbors many natural vitamins such as B6, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin; minerals including calcium, iron, potassium and zinc; antioxidants and other essential natural nutrients.
To create honey, the worker bees flew between the wildflowers at River Trail Nature Center collecting nectar. During this process, the bees also fertilized plants’ seeds because they carry pollen on their rear legs, ensuring a future generation of plants.
Once a worker bee brings the nectar back, which is transformed into honey, it is deposited into the hive and stored for consumption during the winter. The River Trail beekeepers harvest the honey at the end of summer once the removable frames of the hive contain at least 80 percent sealed and capped honey while ensuring there is plenty for the bees to eat through the winter season.