Artisan bee farming and the benefits of pollen

Nature is so beautiful and so perfect.

Think of flowers and their purpose. The nectar, the scent and the beauty of the flowers have only one unique goal: to attract the insect that will carry their pollen from flower to flower.

During spring time is when the bees are really busy collecting pollen and if you are out in the country you will see them working hard flying from flower to flower drinking in as much nectar as they can get.

bee on flowers

On my last trip to Italy I had the exciting experience of visiting a bee farmer and inspecting a beehive.

Mr Roberto is an artisan, he has a real passion for beekeeping. He left his previous job as a chef to dedicate his life to produce the best honey using completely natural methods; his raw organic honey is pure and natural just as real honey should be. Not to be compared to the cheap ones you can find in supermarkets these days.

I jumped on his van and off we went to visit his beehives in the middle of the Friulian countryside. I felt a sense of freedom and excitement, I have been eating honey for all my life but I have never inspected a beehive before. Roberto has several beehives in different spots, some in the mountains, some near his home in Carlino/Udine and some near  Marano Lagunare  near the seaside.

Roberto gave me a protective suit, net and gloves. They were a bit large for my size but they felt perfectly comfortable. I felt like I was going into space! I felt just as excited as a 5 year old!

wearing suit

And we were ready to go!

Roberto and I

Roberto opened a beehive for me, the bees seemed quite agitated he said that was because of the rape fields nearby but I felt safe in my suit. I must admit it was tricky taking photos with my mask and big gloves but that added to the enthusiasm even more!

bees in their beehive

My camera looked black..and alive! It was covered with bees!

opening beehive

During springtime it’s when workers bees go out to collect the sugary juice called nectar from the heart of the flowers. This is stored in their special honey stomach which is different from their food stomach. When they have a full load they go back to their hive. They also collect pollen on the back of their legs.

inspecting beehive

The nectar is then delivered to the indoor bees and then passed from mouth-to-mouth to different bees until its moisture content is reduced to about 20%. This changes the nectar into honey.

Sometimes there is no need for the bees to pass it from mouth to mouth to produce honey because some evaporation will occur if the temperature inside the hive reaches 32.5°C.

The honey is then placed in storage cells and capped with beeswax produced by the bees and it will be ready to feed the newborn baby bees. Pollen is mixed with nectar to feed the larvae. A baby bee needs food rich in protein and the pollen is very rich in it.

The larvae who are to become future queens will be fed with royal jelly. Royal jelly is  produced by young female worker bees and it is made with pollen and chemicals from the glands of the bees.

bees

Bees collect pollen from the anthers of the flowers which look like small grains of different colours and they carry them on their legs. Roberto collects the pollen that the bees bring to the hive by creating a small opening in the beehive so that the returning foragers need to crawl through it in order to enter the hive so that some of the pollen falls into a collection tray.

Fresh pollen

Pollen is one of nature’s most completely nutritious foods as it contains almost all nutrients required by humans: it has a high content of proteins, mineral salts, enzymes, free amino acids, vitamin C and B and folic acid.

Pollen is a very good food supplement to help with your immune system, can be taken during pregnancy, it is very good if you do lots of sports as it is an energy enhancer and if you are vegetarian this is a good source of vitamin B12.

100 grams of pollen have 285 calories which means an adult only needs to take 1 tbsp preferably at breakfast time, whilst for a child 1 tsp is enough.

Roberto produces different types of delicious honey, from “Millefiori” made with different types of local flowers, to chestnut, lime, maple but the one I loved most was the one from the Friulan lagoon which has a delicate and interesting flavour which goes very well accompanied with fresh cheese.

honey

honey on a spoon

Roberto and his beehives

Thanks Roberto for this wonderful experience!

Azienda Agricola Comuzzi Roberto
Via Nazionale 11
33050 Carlino
ITALY

You can find Roberto’s website here.

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16 Responses to Artisan bee farming and the benefits of pollen

  1. Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    This was all so interesting. I would love to visit a bee farm to see how everything works, but I really just want to wear the outfit haha.

    • Alida

      Oh yes that was part of the fun too!

  2. la cucina di Molly

    Che bella esperienza, sei stata coraggiosa a visitare un allevamento di api, io avrei paura! Ma il miele che le api producono è delizioso!

    • Alida

      Hai ragione e fa benissimo.

  3. Chiara

    wow, che coraggio hai avuto, io ho paura delle api !Riconosco però che sono indispensabili per l’ecosistema, il miele poi è sano e delizioso ! Buona settimana

    • Alida

      Grazie Chiara!

  4. Louise

    You are one brave lady, Alida…I too would love to visit a bee farm, protected of course:) I even thought of beekeeping but as I see here, there is so much to know and learn. Perhaps one day:)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Alida…

    • Alida

      Yes beekeeping is hard work and passion should be the main reason for doing it. Such a wonderful thing to do though.

  5. Elisabetta

    What a fascinating post Alida. So interesting reading about just what goes on in a bee’s life. That was quite an experience for you – lucky girl! These are very precious insects as they are crucial in pollinating plants, they must never become extinct otherwise we will be in serious trouble.

    • Alida

      I agree, we must look after them. Ciao!

  6. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,
    Wow, you are amazing! I never would have done this interview even with all that protective gear. In Italian I would say to you coraggioso! But besides this is a fabulous post! Such great information and I am glad that you had on your protective clothing. . I love honey in tea and on many desserts. Honey Bees are so important to nature, we forget all about that when we take out the honey jar and put it on your toast. Once again dear friend your post is exceptional. Thanks for sharing..Enjoy your week…Ciao and thank you to Mr. Roberto.
    Hugs Dottie x 🙂

    • Alida

      I am pleased you like it Dottie. I have honey every day too.. and now even more!

  7. Cherished By Me

    What an amazing experience, you were very brave! bet it was fun as well though 🙂

    • Alida

      Yes a fab experience indeed!

  8. Choclette

    What an great experience for you. Bees are fascinating and so very important. I wish it was easier to get hold of raw honey here. We have a beehive at my mother’s but in the four years we’ve had them, we’ve taken virtually no honey as they seem to need it all for themselves.

    • Alida

      It is not easy to keep bees. I think it is harder in the UK as you need lots of sunshine for the bees to be out foraging. My grandad used to keep them, he loved it and did it for decades.
      People don’t realize how hard it is to produce honey.. I mean also good honey. It has nothing to do with the stuff you buy at supermarkets.
      Well done to your mum though for keeping bees!

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