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From Bee to Honey

Photographer: Nic Bothma


Bees have been buzzing around doing their business for over 130 million years. The honey bee is essential for providing pollination for crops, orchards and flowers. These inspirational insects work tirelessly to produce hives and honey which man harvests. Honey and wax from hives are used for food, cosmetics and medicines. Today bees are threatened by a combination of various factors, deforestation, mites, Colony Collapse Disorder and industrial agriculture.


Bees create honey from flower nectar that they have collected, regurgitated and dehydrated to enhance its nutritional properties. Then there is the harvesting process. The beekeeper dresses in protective clothing from head to toe prior to venturing near a beehive. Next the keeper prepares a smoke bellows which pours smoke over the hives acting as a subduing agent and calming the bees who can become very aggressive and agitated when their hive is 'attacked' by humans wanting to harvest. The beekeeper then cracks the top off the hive and removes a shelf containing the frames which hold the honeycomb. This shelf is then removed from the rest of the hive to a new area away from the hive. Here the frames are lifted from the shelves and taken to a bee free zone, usually a closed room. In the bee free zone the wax coating the top of the honeycomb is removed and the frames placed in a spinning drum. Once the drum has spun all the honey out of the frames by centrifugal force it slowly falls to the bottom of the drum and is drained off into jars.


Bees have inspired films, books, paintings, poems and photographs. In their micro world they continue to serve as an example to humans of how community can work effectively whilst we humans continue to threaten their colonies.