We use it in our cooking, as a sweetener and we can find it in our beauty supplies. We even use it as a nickname. Honey even has been used for treating diseases and other medical conditions such as wounds and burns.
This sweet nectar we have come to know and love has been with us for at least 8,000 years, according to a cave painting in Spain. Honey is made by bees (bumblebees, honeybees, honey wasps) by foraging nectar from flowers.
“It can be an extremely complicated or a very simple process,” said Jeff Mello, owner of Aquidneck Honey in Tiverton. “Our products are raw, meaning no treatments, no feeding the bees sugar water and straight from the hive. We go back to how bees used to live before man.”
Mello noted that the amount of honey produced ultimately depends on the weather.
“We put out bee boxes and capture wild bees,” Mello said. “With a little rain and an area where there’s a good amount of flora, the bees will make a good amount of honey.”
The flora, or plants bees use for food, can even affect the flavor and coloring of honey. This allows for a wide variety of honeys.
At Carlisle Honey in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, they produce six different types of honey, all in raw form. The flavors depend on the season and the plants blooming that season.
At Aquidneck Honey, they add whole sprigs to infuse honey with flavor from ingredients such as cinnamon, peppers and thyme.
With such a wide variety of honey, how do you know what to look out for?
“Know your beekeeper,” Mello said. “Visit them and see their operation and how it’s done.”
The beekeeping community is a close-knit one, and members continue to spread the word on saving the bees.
“A lot of my pollination happens on private property, since I don’t have enough property myself,” Mello said. “I team up with people who write me and offer to see their land. In the end, everyone benefits from it. The more bees, the better our food supply.”
With the bee population declining at an alarming rate, SaveTheBees.org recommends avoiding the use of pesticides and encourages planting native plants in your garden or in outdoor pots.
Stephanie Ross is a freelance writer and public relations professional in Boston.