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All About Honeybees on Wild About Utah

Mary Heers

I was a bit surprised when I met a local beekeeper who insisted she'd never eaten any honey except that produced by bees in the mountains above Cache Valley.  It made sense that the taste of honey would be determined by the flowers where the bees collected nectar and pollen. It turns out the Forest Service issues permits to local beekeepers to put hives around Tony Grove.

Wanting to know more, I dropped into the Honeyland store in Cache Valley and was soon mesmerized by the active cut-away hive on display.  It was a teacher's dream come true - hundreds of bees - all diligently on task.

Wide-eyed, I watched as a bee flew in at the bottom of the screen through a tunnel under the window looking very much like a bike rider with two full panniers. She deposited the full sacks of pollen and then she began to dance.  This took me quickly to the internet to learn more. 

The bees dance is called a "waggle dance" - a straight line calibrated to communicate how far away the food source is, and a circular return arc to orient the path to the food.  The waggle dancing bee can direct her sisters to a food source up to five miles away.

A few more interesting facts: 

  • It takes 550 worker bees visiting 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
  • Top speed for a bee is 15 mph.
  • Each honey bee makes one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

I soon returned to the store's cutaway hive and finally found the queen - a bit tricky as she looks like all the others except she's one and a half times bigger.  I watched as she dipped her tail into one hexagonal cell after another.  On a good day, a queen will lay 2,000 eggs.
Busy, busy bees working together to set aside enough honey to feed themselves during the winter.

The poet Dick Paetzke once called honey "the soul of a field of flowers"

Mountain honey looks and tastes a little different than honey made by bees pollinating Cache Valley alfalfa.  Both are incredibly delicious.

Aristotle got it right: "Honey is the nectar of the gods."

Mary got hooked on oral histories while visiting Ellis Island and hearing the recorded voices of immigrants that had passed through. StoryCorps drew her to UPR. After she retired from teaching at Preston High, she walked into the station and said she wanted to help. Kerry put her to work taking the best 3 minutes out of the 30 minute interviews recorded in Vernal. Passion kicked in. Mary went on to collect more and more stories and return them to the community on UPR's radio waves. Major credits to date: Utah Works, One Small Step, and the award winning documentary Ride the Rails.