OUR BEES MAKE THE WORLD’S BEST HONEY, BUT THAT’S NOT ALL
June 22, 2017
Plenty of people claim to have the world’s best this or that, but our honey has the hardware to prove it! My grandparents Paul and Joyce started Curtis Orchard by planting 700 apple trees. If you would have told them that nearly 40 years later their honey would be awarded the title “Best Tasting Honey in the World,” they probably would have scratched their heads!
You see, it’s a funny story how we ended up raising bees. Grandpa Paul was a teacher for many years, and one of his students was persistent in telling him that he needed to raise bees on his apple orchard. Finally, my grandpa agreed to invest in the equipment and bees if the student helped him learn how to harvest the honey. As the time for honey harvest approached, you guessed it: The student never showed up – he had moved to California! And so, Grandpa Paul ended up teaching himself how to raise bees.
Harvesting the World’s Best Honey
I grew up watching the bees on the farm; they have always fascinated me. But I really got my start at beekeeping in Paraguay through the Peace Corps. A few years ago, when I returned home, I continued to learn more about raising bees from Grandpa Paul. From how to work with them, what they need and how they can help the plants on our farm, there was certainly a lot to learn! I still learn more about the bees every day. Beekeeping is an art and a science all rolled into one.
Honeybees fly from plant to plant collecting nectar to bring back to their honeycomb to make – you guessed it – honey! One of the things that differentiates our honey from others is the wide variety of plants the bees have to choose from in our orchard. They collect nectar from the flower blossoms on apple trees, strawberries, pumpkins and more. This variety of nectar is what I believe makes our honey the best in the world!
While they are collecting nectar, pollen from those plants collects on their bodies and they transfer it from plant to plant as they go about their work. This is why we call them a “pollinator.” Transferring pollen to various plants causes the fruit of that plant to grow.
Helping Us Grow Apples
Many plants are self-pollinators or can be pollinated by the wind as it blows pollen from one plant to another. Apple trees, however, need to be cross-pollinated (pollen has to be transferred from the flower of one plant to another). You can’t have apples without a little help from pollinators such as our honeybee friends!
Photography by Mike Tedesco, Illinois Partners Magazine.
Rachel works with her family at Curtis Orchard where she is the store manager and beekeeper. She also stays busy raising 1-year-old twin girls with her husband Jeremy.
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