Bees and Honey
When the bees swarm, the new queen sings before leaving the hive. He sings for three days before the cells hatch, a dirge. All the worker bees and drones stop so that the old queen can hear the song of the new one. If the new queen sings her dirge, the bees know that the time has come for them to divide and establish a new colony. So some will stay with the old, others will follow the new. Usually swarming occurs at the time of maximum honey production, so that the new swarm, departing from the hive, leaves laden with supplies to enable it to survive until it has found the right place to build its “nest.”
Once the most suitable place to build the new hive has been found, the queen bee takes off on the Nuptial flight that serves to learn the new routes, from the hive to the plants, to the water and so on. This is a most dangerous time for her and the swarm, in fact she rises up to 100 meters above the hive and could be prey to any predator.
Bees at Giglio made their reappearance about 20 years ago, after a long period of absence that began in the 1500s.
The story of the bees was told to us by Alessio and Barbara, two new beekeepers who set out 5/6 years ago to produce Thousand Flowers Honey. But they didn’t just limit themselves to that, they really got swept up in the wonderful and miraculous world of the “hive super-organism” (that’s what scientists call it) and slowly they realized that bees and the hive and nature, are able to take care of themselves independently and the less man’s intervention, the greater the goodness of their fruits, their honey in this case. So it was that on a March day, as the second swarm Alessio purchased on the continent was dying, a wild one showed up buzzing at his vineyard/apiary in Località Olivello, between the Scopeto pine forest and the road to Campese. Having ascertained that the swarm was truly wild and did not belong to anyone, Alessio and Barbara captured it and put it in their hives. The amazing thing is that these bees, wild, had hatched, reproduced and survived on the island without any treatment by humans, something that has not happened in Europe and the world now since the parasitic mite of the Varroa imported from the Philippines and causing the premature death of entire hives. These “gigliese” bees, I said, had, have learned to resist Varroa by carefully and attentively cleaning each other. Alessio and Barbara began to decrease treatments against the parasite and to stop them permanently on some hives, noting that the bees treated with oxalic acid (which was used precisely to kill Varroa) had less development than the others. The natural, natural bees that had all found together, through community practice, a way to survive the parasite were stronger than the others.
The island on the other hand thanks to its being a pesticide virgin territory, rich in flowers and plants of the Mediterranean maquis from rosemary to helichrysum and then heather, thorny broom, cysts, myrtle passing through all the wild and spontaneous fruit plants such as prickly pears, blackberries mulberries, visiciole or saraceae, figs in the fig orchards, nun’s thighs, and garden plants in population centers, has given these precious insects, now threatened with extinction in the rest of the globe, a chance to find a way to fend for themselves and fight the dangerous pest.
Today, the thousand-flower honey of Giglio, is produced by three small farms: that of Alessio and Barbara whose honey is called “The Queen,” that of Erica Centurioni with her “Lacrima di Ra” honey, and by the Cooperativa le Greppe and is included in theAtlas of Products of the Tuscan Archipelago. The Bee-Wine Trail opened by the Company the Queen, which literally adopted the Olivello Trail, a trail that is now included in the CET- European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. During the summer it is possible to have honey and wine tastings, either directly at one of these small farms or with one of the excursions organized together with the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
What is the Cet-The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism? Read more.
Honey is a superfood that never goes bad is defined, in fact, as a“stable” food because it is not attacked by the normal microorganisms responsible for food spoilage. However, it can be subject to fermentation supported by osmophilic yeasts when its water content is more than 18 percent.
That is why Alessio himself told us that the only action a beekeeper has to do on honey is to do nothing! Let the bees decide when it is ready, so as not to alter its moisture level and especially to avoid contamination of any kind in any way.
Honey is a highly energetic yet easily digestible food because it is composed mainly of simple sugars is rich in minerals, vitamins and phytotherapeutic active ingredients from the plants from which bees extract nourishment. It is moreover a “living” and “revitalizing” food because it contains: enzymes, vitamins, oligominerals, antibiotic-like substances and other substances. It is recommended that honey be taken after intense training or high physical exertion to restore the body’s energy.