… As a responsible thriving renewables company, we’re increasing efforts in awareness. Not just for our solutions, but the local and regional Algarve environment.
Bees are constantly in mortal danger. Consider their habitat. Much of it is being eroded on a daily basis. Not necessarily here, in Portugal, but in many other countries. In 2004, some will remember the lethal predatory wasps (type Vespa Velutina) that swarmed in from Asia. They killed bees in the busiest month, August. Don’t forget the series of fires, in 2012, 2017 and 2018 which destroyed huge land-tracts and flowers. Never mind the harmful pesticides – or the monoculture where the same crop is grown yearly. And the rising threat of water shortage and drought.
Disasters on the land take years to recover. And bee colonies are very delicate. Up to 60,000 bees makes a colony. But there’s only one Queen which develops when female workers bees pick a particular larva and feed it Royal Jelly. This ensures she becomes fertile and can produce eggs to make more bees. A Queen can live for a few years and is serviced by the males. This is her role and she is fiercely protected by the colony. And no surprises the workers are all female!
During summer, worker bees collect pollen and make honey. They fly 5-6 miles, reaching speeds of 15 miles per hour, and visit between 50 to 100 flowers per trip. A good hive can produce up to 11 kilos of honey. To calm the bees they are “relaxed” with smoke. The bees are then left with enough honey and they stay with the hive. Next the frames are carefully removed, trimmed or centrifuged after taking the lids off the combs. The honey needs to settle for a day. In this state, it is “raw”, so unheated, untreated and unprocessed.
Here in the Algarve we are fortunate. There are around 1,000 apiarists who have around 100,000 hives. Importantly, due to the Algarve’s remote areas and wild terrain, this helps the bees. The best producers will also move their hives to certain areas and at different times. This helps their bees produce many different flavours like lavender, rosemary, carob and orange blossom. If honey contains more than 18% pollen of the same flower, it’s considered mono-floral.
Getting Your Honey
Most honey bought in supermarkets is the mass-produced processed variety. But those willing to travel a little can still buy the artisanal stuff. Many beekeepers don’t advertise exactly where they keep their hives. That’s because bee theft is on the rise. But some of the very best honey comes from the Serras. This is due to the large variety of flowers and blossom found there.
Let’s not forget that the industrious bee produces wax – where the best furniture polish is made from. Then there are candles. It also finds its way into cosmetics, lip balm, vinegar and liquors.