Honey is a product that I use every day. I guess you could say I might even have a slight honey addiction. It's added to my tea, drizzled over my yogurt or oatmeal, combined with lemon juice to create salad dressings, and even helps create face masks for my skin. 

Honey has been used for centuries for healing and rejuvenation. In its raw form (unpasteurized and unheated), it contains powerful antioxidants and cancer-fighting phytonutrients. Honey also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that add to its benefits.

Though nutritionally superior to refined sugar, it is still high in natural sugars and should be eaten moderately so I keep the amounts to a minimum.

Because of this infatuation, I decided to go straight to the source and educate myself on the producers of this liquid gold.

A couple weeks ago, I (as well as a couple of friends I dragged with me) took part in a beekeeping class. Most of the attendees there were either beekeepers or interested in keeping their own hives, though I approached the class more eager to learn about the bees and certainly left with an appreciation for all the hard work that goes into producing honey.

Below you'll find many interesting facts that will enlighten you on the lives of honey bees.

Honey bee facts
- The average worker honey bee makes 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
- To make one pound of honey, bees must tap 2,000,000 flowers.
- A hive of honey bees must fly over 55,000 miles to bring in one pound of honey.
- To make one pound of honey, honeybees must gather 10 pounds of nectar. 
Types of bees
Honey bees are colonial insects. Since no single honey bee can survive on its own, they can be thought of as a single organism. The colony consists of:
- a queen bee
- a large number of female worker bees, typically 30,000-50,000 in number
- a number of male drones, ranging from thousands in a strong hive in spring to very few during the cold season
Like moths and butterflies, honey bees undergo complete metamorphosis, developing in the brood nest cell from an egg to a larva to a pupa to an adult.
The queen is the only sexually mature female in the hive and all of the female worker bees and male drones are her offspring. The queen may live for up to 3 years or more and may be capable of laying half a million eggs or more in her lifetime. At the peak of the breeding season, late spring to summer, a good queen may be capable of laying 3,000 eggs in one day, more than her own body weight.
The queen is raised from a normal worker egg, but is fed a larger amount of royal jelly than a normal worker bee, resulting in a radically different growth and metamorphosis. The queen influences the colony by the production and dissemination of a variety of pheromones or "queen substances". One of these chemicals suppresses the development of ovaries in all the female worker bees in the hive and prevents them from laying eggs. 
The queen emerges from her cell after 15 days of development and she remains in the hive for 3-7 days before venturing out on several mating flights. She may mate with a number of male drones on each flight. Over several matings the queen will receive and store enough sperm from a succession of drones to fertilize hundreds of thousands of eggs. Without a properly performing queen, the hive is doomed. 
Drones are the largest bees in the hive (except for the queen), at almost twice the size of a worker bee. They do no work, do not forage for pollen or nectar and have no other known function than to mate with the new queens and fertilize them on their mating flights. 
Almost all the bees in a hive are female worker bees. At the height of summer when activity in the hive is frantic and work goes on non-stop, the life of a worker bee may be as short as 6 weeks. In late autumn, when no brood is being raised and no nectar is being harvested, a young bee may live for 16 weeks, right through the winter. 
What happens in a hive
Worker bees maintain a constant temperature of 95 degrees in the hive for proper brood development. This is achieved by an astonishing process. In cooler weather, they crowd together and cover the brood cells with their bodies. On warmer days they scatter and if the heat becomes excessive they bring in water, and cover the combs with a fine film which they cause to evaporate by fanning with their wings.
As the queen ages she begins to run out of stored semen and her pheromones begin to fail. At some point, inevitably, the queen begins to falter and the bees will decide to replace her by creating a new queen from one of her fertilized eggs. They may do this because she has been injured (lost or a leg or an antenna), because she has run out of sperm and cannot lay fertilized eggs or because her pheromones have dwindled to a point where they cannot control all the bees in the hive anymore.

Now about this cake.

This heavenly chocolate cake is so simple to make, ridiculously gooey and delicious, and guilt free. Though it looks and sounds decadent, it is completely free of sugar and gluten. In fact, it only contains 3 main ingredients and is raw. The "cooking" process takes place in the freezer or fridge.


  Recipe (adapted from My New Roots)


2 cups whole walnuts
2 1/2 cups of medjool dates, pitted
1 cup of raw cacao powder

8 oz dark chocolate bar (74 % or higher)
1/4 cup water
1/4 honey

1 1/2 cups of blackberries
pinch of good sea salt

For the cake:

Add walnuts to a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the cacao and pulse to combine.

Add the dates two at a time through the feed tube of the processor while it is running. After the last date is added, the mixture should stick together. If it is too dry, add one date at a time until it easily holds together.

Press the mixture into a cake pan or mold until completely compacted and place in the freezer or fridge to harden a bit (20-30 min) for easy removal and cutting (it cuts easier when cold).

For the glaze:

Heat the honey and water until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth. Let cool and pour over the cake. Top with fresh blackberries and a pinch of course sea salt to really bring out the flavors.

As this cake doesn't have any eggs or dairy, it's encouraged to leave out at room temperature as it stays more moist. Store in an air tight container.


Subscribe to feast + harmony