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BEEKEEPING



Our bees

mehilaishoitajaDuring the summertime Lappi-Hunaja has over 300 beehives located all around Finland from the western parts to the polar circle. We use the traditional ecological wooden beehives. Our 15 million honey professionals fly around during the summer for 12 billion kilometres and produce 20000 kilos of honey. The beehives hibernate in the western coast of Finland, where the weather is milder in wintertime. This way we avoid the losses in winter and bees are ready to collect honey right away from the very beginning of the spring. Spring arrives earlier in the west, which enables a long harvesting season. The end of the summer is busy time for the beekeeper, because the honey does not get produced at once. The quality and quantity of the harvest depends on the weather and the plants growing nearby the beehives.


History of the beekeeping and honey

People have been enjoying of delicious honey for over 15000 years. Honey was the only sweetener until 13th century. The health benefits of hone have been known for thousands of years. Beekeeping begun, when it was noticed, that natural beehives could be transferred into the garden to a hollow tree or a dome made from hey. Collecting honey from these nests was difficult though. About a hundred years ago beekeepers started building their hives from layered squares, the production really took off, as in these stacked hives makes taking care of the bees easier. Collecting the honey was also more effective.


mehilaisia This is how nectar becomes honey

The countdown for the honey production of the year starts in March, when the queen starts laying her eggs. At the same time, worker bees begin their efforts to collect fresh pollen as food for the larvae. Therefore, beehives are ideally located close to early-blooming flowers, such as willows, blueberries and alders. The actual season for collection of nectar starts in May and June with the blooming of blueberries and dandelions. The origins of the nectar are carefully decided, as the bees have their favourite plants.

Bees can collect and carry about 0,1 grams of nectar at a time. The bees returning from the field give the nectar forward to the home bees to process it. The bees refine the nectar with their own enzymes and convert the nectar into easily digested forms of glucose and fructose. Because nectar includes a lot of water, which easily starts fermenting in the warm beehive, the bees evaporate all excess water from it. The nectar is spread to many honeycombs to increase the evaporation. When the honey is ready, the bees cover the honey cone with airtight wax seal. During the summer, the beekeeper collects the ready honeycombs to extract the honey by spinning.


How the bees survive the -30 degrees of Nordic winter

Hunaja Summer bees require honey for their own nutrition. Beekeeper can only get their share from the honey that the bees have collected for the winter. In the autumn, the beekeeper replaces the honey from the bees’ winter storage with sugar liquid. The bees process and store the sugar liquid for its nutrition. While collecting the honey, beekeepers leave behind some honeycombs that has a lot of pollen in it to be used as nutrition as well.

Worker bees born in the end of the summer create a so called “winter ball” around the queen when the weather gets colder. The temperature inside this buzzing ball is about 20 degrees. The bees move and feed there. The bees staying in the outer layer of the ball are tightly stuck together and create heat by moving their wings.

Bees are sensitive for distraction when they are in their winter ball mode. Winter storms or unwanted visitors and distract the peace of the beehive. That is why the beekeeper makes check-up visits to the hives also in wintertime. In the end of the winter the beekeeper removes the snow in front of the beehive, so the bare ground enhances the heat of the spring sun. The bees are busy to start their cleaning up flights, as they need to start their digestion after a long time in the nest.


The bee colony

Bees communicate with each other with a sophisticated dancing language and they understand each other’s messages even in the complete darkness. Dance will show the direction of the flowers in relation to the location of the sun. Bees visit around two million flowers to produce a 400-gram-jar of honey. The bees have lived on this earth for about 150 million years.

tyomehilainenQueen

The bee society has a precise working order. On the top of the food chain is the queen, the mother, and there is only one of them in a beehive. If there are several queens born in the hive at the same time, the first-born queen bites the unborn queens honeycomb cups open and kills the other queens with her poisonous spike. Queen is a fertile female. She only flies during the wedding flight and nesting. The queen gets one or two of the lowest layers of the hive. She can produce up to 1500 eggs a day.

Drones

The queen bee is responsible of creating new members to the society. The task also requires a male bee, a drone. Drones have an easy life but a short lifespan, only for about 1-2 months. They life in the hive in “all inclusive” care. In one beehive, there is about 500 drones. The mating does not happen with the queen in the hive though, but the drones can travel a long way. When a queen on her wedding flight meets drones, they mate. The drone has a price to pay for the action, as it dies on the process while the back part of its body gets ripped off with the queen. The fertilized queen returns to her hive and only leaves it in the case of nesting, if the hive is divided later. The drones are evicted away for the winter, so they are not supported there for the winter.

Worker bee

Worker bees are the ones, who work long days collecting the nectar and pollen from the flowers. During the summer time there can be over 80000 worker bees in the beehive. Most of them don’t hibernate. Worker bees are female, but they can’t reproduce, as their reproductive organs have withered. The flying season for the worker bees is short, only about 3-4 weeks. During the season it flies about 800km. It brings the collected nectar to the home bees, who process the nectar into honey.
 

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