Beekeeping: Beyond a Pastime – The Essential Role of Bees
At a maximum speed of 30 km/h, they fly through the air, the bees, from flower to flower and collect the precious nectar to turn it into honey. In doing so, they really make a difference. The bees travel no less than 120,000 km to produce a jar of honey (500g). That's the distance of three circumnavigations of the earth. So no wonder that bees and beekeeping fascinate many people so much.
This is also the case with our Control Center Manager Ronald Wesner, who agreed to answer a few questions about beekeeping at the start of the bee season in March.
Ronald Wesner is an agricultural engineer and has been in charge of Kiwa BCS since 2019. Bees have fascinated him for a long time, so he is already taking part in various courses in 2010, 2011 and in 2018 he finally succeeds in purchasing his own beehives. He started with three of them, but now six bee colonies live in Mr. Wesner's garden. In the summer months, a bee colony grows to about 50,000 bees plus the male drones. Between March and the end of July it is high season for the bees. As soon as the first pollen buzzes through the air, the bees take off and begin to process the collected nectar into honey and store it in the honeycombs.
What does a beekeeping season look like?
Depending on the flower, the honey is produced in different varieties. For Mr. Wesner, the first harvest of the year after the rapeseed blossom is due. In total, he harvests honey three times a year. He can look forward to about 40 kg per year from a bee colony. This is comparatively little when you consider that professional beekeepers harvest about 80-100 kg per bee colony in one year. Why it is about half less with Mr. Wesner, you will find out later. After the rapeseed blossom, Ronald Wesner will have two more harvest days until the end of the bee season in July. The question of whether bees should be deprived of food during beekeeping makes Mr. Wesner smile, "to a certain extent" is the answer. Followed by an explanation that care must always be taken to leave enough honey in the hive for the self-sufficiency of the bees. In addition, at the end of the bee season, before autumn begins, sugar water is always fed, from which a lot of honey is produced so that the bees get through the winter well.
In general, you have to regularly take care of the bees whose honey you want to harvest. This takes time. During the summer months, all hives are checked at least once a week to make sure that the bees and their queen are doing well. The harvest itself takes about 2 full days. One day is used for honey extraction, i.e. spinning. After that, the honey obtained must be sifted, skimmed and poured into jars. This will take a second day.
Organic or non-organic honey, that's the question
The EU has published an organic beekeeping regulation in addition to the EU Organic Regulation. It contains the differences that separate organic honey and non-organic honey. Among the essentials, Ronald counts the ban on the administration of antibiotics, only the supplemental feeding with organic sugar and sufficient honey for the bees in the hive and the choice of location of the hives. Therefore, only 40 kg are harvested per year in Ronald Wesner's garden. He does not see any significant additional effort between organic and non-organic honey production. Only the annual organic control is to be mentioned here as a feature. This can only take place in the summer months at temperatures above 15° C, so that the bee colony does not lose the heat when the hive is opened. Furthermore, in organic beekeeping, care must be taken to ensure that the queen bee has intact wings and that the treatments against pests are recorded and are carried out exclusively with permissible means.
The challenge of climate change
The quality of honey, whether organic or non-organic, depends mainly on the water content of the honey. This should be measured before spinning. There are also major influencing factors from the immediate vicinity of the hive, such as the use of pesticides that contaminate the honey or the persistent drought during recent years. These heat waves mean that the collection supply for the bees is lower. So there has been little to no forest honey in recent years. The high temperatures also lead to a high stress level in the bees and they need more energy to protect the hive from overheating. "Then you see a bunch of bees sitting at the entrance to the hive, trying like crazy with their wings to fan cool air from outside into the hive, which of course only works to a limited extent when the air is already so warm anyway," recalls Ronald Wesner. For him, the bees have become a part of his life, especially he enjoys the sounds and scent of the bees in the summer garden.
By the way, he prefers to eat his own honey on bread over a thin layer of tahini (sesame puree), in salad dressings or generally in the combination of cheese and honey.
Do you want to get your organic product certified?
Every company that produces, processes or markets organic products must be certified according to the requirements of the current EU Organic Regulation. These products can be agricultural products such as seeds and seedlings, food or feed grains, vegetables, fruit, or animal products such as eggs or milk. All processed organic products, such as bread and bakery products, dairy products or meat products, etc., also fall under the scope of the EU Organic Regulation, as do organic feed stuffs.
A full organic inspection is required by law at least once a calendar year. We provide professional support for you and your company in all areas of organic certification in Germany. In addition, Kiwa BCS is accredited in various countries outside the EU to certify companies according to EU organic standards. In this way:
- You actively contribute to a sustainable future.
- You contribute to the supply of organic products and thus meet consumer demand.
- Your products stay in the trend towards more organic goods and your business remains competitive.