What is “urban honey” and how is it different from rural honey? Urban honey is honey that is cultivated within a city.  In our case, we raise bees that collect pollen and nectar in Chicago, make honey, and allow us to share it!  We are able to bring you fresh, clean, and varied honey found absolutely nowhere else!  Chicago’s west side hosts an abundance of nectar sources that are imported into the flavor and complexity of the honey cultivated here.  From Spring through Fall, our bees forage the gardens, boulevards, and various landscapes that yield everything from Midwestern prairie sources of flowers to the exotic imports planted by our diverse community.

Is beelove™ honey organic? Urban honey is a very interesting concoction of various nectar and pollen sources.  A New York City beekeeper identified thousands of flower sources in his honey!  beelove™ honey is produced by our bees, who forage several miles on the west side of Chicago to collect.  Because we cannot verify that each source of pollen and nectar came from a plant growing under organic certification conditions, we cannot state that our honey is organic.  We are sure that the plants and flowers that we grow are not sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, etc. and that our grounds are free of persistent and harmful chemicals used by many for landscaping.  We encourage our neighbors to do the same!  Our bees are not treated with antibiotics, and we do not kill our bees for honey extraction.

Is there a bee season? What happens to bees in the Winter? Do they hibernate? In the Midwest, and at Beelove Apiaries, the bee season officially begins by April 1st and ends in October. These are the months of laborious pollen and nectar collection, the laying of eggs by the queen, and the storage of honey for the winter months.

What is Collony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or HBDS? Are the bees dying?
Colony Collapse Disorder (also known as Honeybee Depopulation Syndrome or HBDS) is a serious concern the world over. You may have heard of the “disappearing of the bees” and some of the theories about bee disappearance. Bee populations in many countries took a sharp decline in 2006, and scientists, agriculturalists, and beekeepers have been studying and concerned with this problem ever since. Decline of bee populations is a major food concern, since bees pollinate plants and make possible one of every third bite of food consumed by humans.

The causes of these disappearances are still being studied. Explanations include bee-specific mites and other parasites, the over-exposure of honeybees to pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, and even technologically related changes in environment. Studies have shown a much higher prevalence of CCD in rural areas. Cities such as Sydney, London, New York, Berlin, and Chicago report very low instances of CCD – a testament to the sustainability of urban beekeeping.

Have the Sweet Beginnings bees been affected by CCD?
Fortunately, the Beelove Apiaries have not been largely affected by CCD. It may be the techniques that we use in beekeeping – organic and low-impact. It is challenging to be definite about the occurrence of CCD in our hives, but we are certain that our healthy, strong hives are supported by an environment of non-persistant chemical and pesticide use.

Where do you get your bees?
Sweet Beginnings uses the Italian Honeybee (Apis mellifera) for its hives.  This species works very well in the Midwestern climate and is a fabulous pollinator.  We sometimes purchase new colonies from bee breeders in California.  The 2010 beekeeping season has brought us several Hawaiian queen bees!

How long does a Queen Bee live?
A Queen Bee lives for 3-5 years. When she is aging, worker bees “make” a new Queen by feeding the larva a special diet of royal jelly.

How do your bees make honey?
Honey is concentrated nectar. The bees convert nectar to honey by enzyme infusion and evaporation of more than 80 percent of the water from the nectar.

How many bees are in a Sweet Beginnings hive?
In the Midwest, the ideal population is 50- to 70-thousand bees achieved by the last week of June or first week of July.

How many eggs can a queen bee lay?
About 1200 to 2000 per day.

How long do your bees live?
The queen may live 3-5 years; drones, (male bees) from 6 weeks to a few months; workers, (female bees) live for 4-9 months during the winter season, but only 6 weeks during the busy summer months (they literally work themselves to death). The workers spend their first three weeks of life inside the hive feeding larvae and doing housekeeping chores.  Their last three weeks of life are spent in the field foraging for nectar and pollen which they bring back to store in the hive.

How far do your bees fly?
Worker bees may range from three to four miles often making about six round trips per day. During their three weeks of foraging, some workers may fly more than 1,000 miles.

How much honey can one of your bees make?
A worker bee makes only about one-fifth teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. But to make that small amount, the worker must collect more than one full teaspoon of nectar during its short three weeks of foraging life.

Can honey spoil?
All pure honey is antiseptic, possessing anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, and therefore never spoils.  Nearly all pure honey will crystallize in time. Crystallized honey may be eaten as is, or will liquefy by heating gently in hot water for about an hour. Raw honey should not be boiled or heated by microwave.

Does beelove™ urban honey taste different than honey from rural areas?
The flavor, color and quality of honey depends entirely on the flowers from which the bees collected the nectar and pollen. Urban areas provide a wide variety of flowers throughout the honey flow season while most rural areas are dedicated to specific crops.

Additionally, flowers in urban areas are less exposed to pesticides than flowers in rural areas where crops are often sprayed to combat insects, fungi and plant diseases.

Are Sweet Beginnings honeybees vegetarian?
Yes, bees are most certainly vegetarian…! Female worker bees forage for nectar and pollen from plant sources only. The nectar and pollen are brought back to the hive and blended and stored to create delicious honey.

If you have more questions about bees, honey and the workings of  our beelove™ apiaries, please contact a Sweet Beginnings Team Member at info@beelovestore.com.