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Protector of the Bees

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Posted: Friday, May 4, 2018 10:03 am | Updated: 10:14 am, Fri May 4, 2018.

   Our story centers around a man named Lee Del Signore owner of 2,500 bee hives that are scattered from Florida City through the orange oroves and palmetto acreage in Central Florida.

   Patty and I arrived at Lee’s plant to watch the extraction of honey from hive boxes. In the warehouse was 300 boxes each containing eight frames. That’s 2,400 frames that needed to pass through a slicing machine that cuts the wax caps on both ends of the chambers containing that sweet delight. From the slicer, each frame is hand trimmed removing excess wax and honey off the wooden frame. The frames are then placed in a large centrifuge that holds 100 frames. Once loaded, a 25-minute spinning process begins with the honey flowing out the bottom of the spinning drum into a collecting vat. The frames are removed and replaced in the hive boxes ready to head back to the fields.

Off to the side was a melting vat where excess honey is collected off the wax. The wax becomes a by product that is used to water proof leather or become part of cosmetic products. Bees wax is found in medicinal salve as well as candles.

   Lee became “the Bee Protector” in the 1980’s. By the time Hurricane Andrew blew through town in 1992, he was one of the largest bee keepers in South Florida. Looking back, Lee remarked, “After Hurricane Andrew it was like starting all over but the bees and the farmers need me.”

   When asked for details on bee keeping, Lee began giving facts faster then I could write, “a good hive contains about 60,000 worker bees. During a bee’s life-time of about three weeks, it will collect about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. A hive that size will have about 1,000 drones (males) that periodically fly in a group hovering in the air waiting for breeding with the Queen Bee. This will enable her to lay 1,500 to 2,000 eggs a day in the cells of the honey cone. In order to keep the female from placing eggs in all the cells of the hive, a metal grid is placed several boxes above the entrance on the bottom. Worker bees, being smaller than the queen, can pass through the grid leaving upper level boxes to store pure honey. The queen can continue to reproduce for several years but as she ages, production of new workers goes down. This makes it necessary to constantly replace aging queens with younger ones. New, young, mature, queens can be purchased for $25 each while waiting queens, in developmental stage, can be purchased for around $5 each with an 80% success rate.”   

   The average farmer needs one to two hives per acre to insure maximum production. “It’s the worker bees job to collect nectar from the flowers to produce honey. In doing so, the bee transfers pollen, the male part of the flower to the piston, the female part. Completing the process is known as pollination. The results are fruits, vegetables and seeds, all necessary to sustain life.”

   Lee went on to say, that beekeeping is a risky business always at the mercy of the weather, disease bearing parasites and pesticides. His biggest single loss, besides Hurricane Andrew, was the theft of close to 80 hives. Unfortunately the loss of hives to sprays is not uncommon.

   “Remember, bees are the barometer of what’s around us. Think about it, whatever kills bees is in our environment. These are the same pollutants that exists in our water, our air and eventually in our bodies.”

   In closing I asked Lee for a final statement on honey and farming. Without hesitation he responded, “Sugar farming is the worst use of agricultural land. Its overuse by consumers is leading this country into an epidemic of diabetes. People should be using honey, after all, it’s a natural sweetener when left unrefined and unfiltered.”

   When I returned home to my computer, I googled “Using honey as a substitute for sugar.” Here are some general rules and benefits.   

The Rule: For every 1 cup of sugar, substitute 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.

The Rule: For every 1 cup of honey you're using, subtract 1/4 cup of other liquids from the recipe.

The Rule: Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup honey used.

The Rule: Reduce the temperature of the oven by 25°F.


   Honey has more calories but is the better choice. Honey consists mostly of glucose and fructose. Glucose, in particular, is a basic sugar that’s easy to burn. Fructose doesn’t burn quite as quickly and is more likely to be turned into fat, but it still can be used fairly readily by the body. White sugar takes longer to process and isn’t burned as quickly. The sugars in honey taste sweeter than those in white sugar, so you may use less honey than sugar when sweetening your coffee. Because the sugars in honey are processed faster, they’re less likely to be converted into fats and stored in your body. The sugars in honey have a lower glycemic index than those in white sugar, which means honey will have less of an effect on blood-glucose levels.

    Because honey is less processed than white sugar, it has other trace nutrients that have additional health benefits: Antibacterial properties, Antioxidants, Minerals, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and C while table sugar has none of these additional benefits.

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