Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Bees and Blueberries
by Suzelle Sinclair
suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net

 

“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.”
~Saint Francis de Sales

The morning sunlight was streaming through the window, as the steam rose from my freshly poured cup of coffee. “Ding,” the toaster alerted that my bread was nicely browned, warm and ready to be spread with butter and homemade preserves made from strawberries picked just last month. I tossed a handful of fresh blueberries onto my oatmeal and drizzled a little local honey on top.

In the Carolinas, July is one of the most plentiful months for freshly picked fruits and vegetables. While I enjoy the many local farmers markets for their wide variety of delicious treasures, I also enjoy visiting pick-your-own farms, especially when purchasing large quantities to freeze or can. The only thing that can make strawberry preserves more delicious is enjoying them spread on a hot biscuit on a cold winter’s morning.

Lingering over my coffee, I studied the harvest schedule and list of pick-your-own farms. This time of year there are plenty of options, sunflowers, blueberries, corn and peaches, to name a few. It is nearing the end of the blueberry season and although I purchased a small amount to enjoy fresh, blueberries are easy to freeze and wonderful to have all year long. You pick them when there is no moisture on them and place in freezer bags. When ready to use, just take out the amount you need, wash and enjoy.

Since I wanted to wait for the morning dew to dry, I first stopped to visit my favorite beekeeper, Sam. Sam, like the bees, is fascinating company. He has a wealth of knowledge and I always learn so much from visiting him. No surprise, when I arrived he was already out tending the bees. He gave me a hearty hello and offered me a beekeeper veiled hat to visit the hives. July is a busy month for the worker bees. I enjoyed watching them as they buzzed in and out of the hive, delivering collected nectar for honey production.

I was intrigued by the beekeeping process as I watched Sam opens the hives to inspect for problems such as pests. The first frame he pulled was from the nursery hive. Hives are stacked on top of one another, some are nursery hives and some are solely for honey production. These are separated by an extruder, which has a small slot. This slot is large enough for the worker bees to enter, but too small for the much larger queen to pass, keeping her in the nursery hive. Sam pointed out the queen. There is only one queen in a hive and her sole duty is to lay eggs.

Next Sam opened a honey hive and removed a frame that was nearly covered with beeswax. The worker bees place honey in the chambers of the comb and cover it with wax. Sam told me that this frame was ready to harvest. As we left the hives, I commented on how healthy Sam’s garden appeared. “That’s thanks to the bees,” Sam cheerfully told me. His garden meets the requirements for North Carolina Organic Certification, which means he hasn’t used pesticides for many years. This has allowed for a perfectly balanced eco-system to develop. He explained at first it was challenging, but soon insects like ladybugs and praying mantises, that control pests took over the job of pesticides. Bees could safely pollinate, resulting in more, larger, healthier fruits and vegetables. Each plant must be cross pollinated multiple times to produce fruit. “That’s alot of work for these little bees,” Sam proudly explained. As we walked through the garden, Sam grabbed a bucket and filled it with tomatoes, squash, corn and other garden goodies. He handed it to me, along with a couple of jars of honey, and said, “Enjoy! Compliments of the bees.”

As I left later that morning, I realized that the strawberry preserves, blueberries and all the fruits and vegetables I enjoy are also complements of the bees, and wonderful folks, like Sam, that help to keep our eco-system balanced and working.

USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, available free online at:

https://www.healthycanning.com/wp-content/uploads/USDA-Complete-Guide-to-Home-Canning-2015-revision.pdf

For answers to frequently asked questions about honey, visit the North Carolina Beekeepers Association website:

https://www.ncbeekeepers.org/resources/honey-faq

Visit NC Farms: https://visitncfarmstoday.com/

CHARLOTTE WEATHER