Valley Bounty: Honey

With the honey harvest done for the season, Valley beekeepers are busy packaging and selling 2018’s bounty. I recently spoke with Dan Conlon who, with his wife Bonita, owns Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield. Dan explained that while he and Bonita are slowing down this time of year, their bees are busy with the full-time job of surviving the winter.

Bees bred in cold climates—like the Russian honey bees that Dan and Bonita raise–have excellent instincts for stashing away honey throughout the summer. That cache becomes crucial–bees don’t leave their hives during the winter and their trove of honey is the colony’s only food source once the frost sets in. Dan explained that once the cold hits, the bees cluster together in a sphere around the queen. By packing tightly and continuously flexing their wing muscles, a healthy colony of 40–60,000 bees can maintain a temperature of 80° inside their huddle throughout the frigid winter. Some beekeepers like to trudge through the snow, placing stethoscopes on their hives, hoping to hear the steady, soothing hum that signifies a healthy colony (distressed bees sound more like a loud roar.) Dan doesn’t bother–he figures that he’s done everything he can. At this point whatever happens is up to the bees and mother nature.

The local bees are all enjoying their honey, so join them with a sweetened January meal. Try Dan and Bonita’s favorite honey glaze on your next roast chicken. Mix 1 cup honey, ¾ cup orange juice, ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp black pepper, ½ tsp kosher salt, and 2 tsp hot sauce in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce it slightly for pouring over the chicken mid-roast, and then reduce the rest to a thick syrup to pour over the finished bird.

Valley Bounty is written by Noah Baustin of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)