A few weeks back we went to go check out how the lovely people at The Honey Company get their delicious delicious honey.
It all started when I met Carolina and Spencer at a bazaar selling their honey products. Yum!
I got us a little tub of spreadable honey and it was just so delicious.
I’ve been a little curious about beekeeping these days since our neighbour Charlie keeps bees at the Taino Farm, and local honey from “the campo” is available pretty much everywhere in the Dominican Republic for dirt cheap (about 100RD for a litre, that’s USD$2.50).
In fact, honey is kind of a big deal here.
Some farmers keep them to pollinate their crops and have a little extra income from honey sales, others just for the honey.
In all as of 2011 there were 3,500 keepers and 100,000 hives. That year 500 metric tons of honey were exported to the US and Caribbean.
At $2,500 per ton, that’s a million and a quarter dollar export. (world-wide demand is about 1.2 million metric tons per year)
Turns out, as Carolina told us though “Before the varroa plague stroke, the DR exported almost 900 metric tons per year, so we have actually lost a dear share in the international market.” and that the reason you can find honey so cheap is that a lot of it is cut with syrups or made with less-than-quality hygiene. In fact she thinks the honey business here is in trouble.
So we got in contact and they invited us up to Abreu so we could check out what all the buzz is about.
Spencer’s mother, Lynn, lives up in Abreu in a beautiful home in the hills and it’s just the most perfect place for Carolina and Spencer to plant a few hives.
The bees are really happy because Lynn’s landscaping is just stupendous and they have access to all the flowers their little hearts desire.
Piñon, Mango, Basil, you name it, these little bees have everything delicious at their disposal.
I know they don’t see anything like we do, but I hope they appreciate the view they get from up there.
It’s a really peaceful and tranquil place and after a little mucking around putting on long sleeves and netting on a hot day, it was time to get down to beesness (oh yeah, I just went there! Cheesy, I know, but you had it comin’)
Now if you’re scared of bees, this is definitely not the line of work you want to get into.
We’re nowhere close to harvest time, so the bees were really chill on the day we went to visit…. no fear anyone is going to rob their honey, so they’d rather just let you come over and ignore you than get all aggressive and possibly die stinging you.
But even then, Spencer had a little buzzer get inside of his face net. No big deal for him, he’s around them all the time, he knows they’re just curious and mean no harm.
When they’re more protective of the honey is when the smoker really comes in handy.
Carolina’s been stung a couple of times, but she doesn’t mind
The task was to find the queen.
Without a queen to lay eggs a hive isn’t going to last very long. Bees only live a few months and the hive is constantly spawning replacement workers and drones, so without a queen, there aint no honey and there aint no hive.
So if you’re beekeeping you want to check up on the health of your bees constantly, and you want to make sure your Queen Bee is alive and well.
Plus finding her is an epic mission!
The closed hive is almost silent. Not for long. You can’t really hear the sound of one bee, but let me tell you, a hive is LOUD!
I guess they’re not lying when they say there’s power in numbers.
Well each hive has about 10 frames and each frame has more cells than I can count, double sided!
Inside the hexagonal cell there is a little larvae being spawned.
Each adult bee is in charge of a different job to make sure those little guys are nice and warm and cozy and fed so they can crawl out of their hole when it’s time to learn to fly and go about their duties.
The Queen goes around and lays eggs in each of the holes, that’s where the larvae come from, so if you want to find her, a good hint is to look for the freshest eggs. She moves fast though, so we had no luck on the first hive.
See if you can find her in this mess of bees.
Maybe this one is easier:
Remember, we’re trying to do this while they’re all moving around frantically.
Well finally, on the second hive, I spotted her! I was soo excited!!
She’s definitely different, a much larger abdomen than the other bees, more yellow, with different markings.
Having found the bee in the healthy hive, we went to check on the hive that was a bit sick.
Some of the bees in this hive had bee diarrhea. They don’t poop in their hives, so the bees get all weird and stay outside acting erratically and feeling sick to their stomach.
Whenever I have gastro I like to lie in my bed, fetal position style, so I feel their pain, with not being able to go home and all..
Apparently it’s nothing a little aspirin can’t fix though, and then everything is back to normal.
Personally, I think they’re super cute. I totally wished I was their size so I could hug them, but unfortunately, instead I crushed one trying to put the frame back in.
I’m sorry little bee, may your rest in peace.
After a lovely afternoon trying to get acquainted with out little insect friends, and a delicious dinner with our hosts at a pizza joint in Rio San Juan, it was time for us to head home.
We thought guaguas ran all night, because they do through Cabarete. Unfortunately it turns out they start from Gaspar Hernandez, Not Rio San Juan, even less Abreu.
We had the option of paying a motoconcho 300 pesos (7USD) to take us to Gaspar Hernandez (a 30 kilometre drive with sparse street lighting, in a country with rampant drunk driving) but The lovely Honey Company people offered to take us in for the night instead.
We flipped a coin, seems the universe wanted us safe in our inflatable mattress.
Thanks Carolina! Thanks Spencer!
Now we know, guaguas don’t run all night.
We’re really happy that we not only got to meet the adorable little honey bees, but that we got to meet and spend the night with Carolina and Spencer, who are real quality folk.
If you’d like to get your hands on some of their honey, check out the next Bazaar, in Cabarete!
The Honey Company is just a year old this week, so Happy Birthday guys! We hope to see you and your bee family again for harvest.