In this week’s Sparkle Sleepytime story, "Happy the Honey Bee" deals with mixed feelings about being chosen to join the new queen and swarm to a new hive.
While they sometimes inspire a little fear, a swarm of bees can also be fascinating.
Swarming is a method of bee reproduction, only instead of individual bees reproducing, it’s one whole hive creating another. When food supplies are good, worker bees in a hive will begin to make special cells called “queen cups”. The old queen lays eggs in the queen cups, and the larvae are eventually fed “royal jelly” to make a new queen.
Meanwhile, before the new queen emerges, the old queen will lead the swarm — the worker bees that choose to go with her — out of the hive. Scout bees find a location for a new hive, and in fairly quick order there are two complete hives where there once was only one.
Of course, while bee behavior is interesting, I think most people agree that the best thing about bees is that they make honey. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that, depending on where a specific hive of bees has foraged and what time of year it is, that honey can taste completely different. From sweet, floral orange-blossom honey, to deep, maple-y buckwheat honey, bees are every bit as skilled as winemakers at capturing the essence of a time and place in liquid form.
While it’s not quite the same as it is when the bees make it, you can also infuse honey with different flavors at home.
Lavender infused honey is a good starting place, but the method below will work with any number of ingredients. Think herbs like thyme, camomile, anise, cloves, rosemary, or mint. Or go really wild and infuse your honey with chili peppers, lemon peel, or dried mushrooms.
Lavender Infused Honey
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon lavender
To begin, roughly chop the lavender — blossoms, stems, and leaves are all fine — and tie it up in a cheese cloth. You can just put the lavender into the honey and let it steep for several weeks, but I like to hurry things along by heating the honey.
To do so, put a jar of honey in a skillet, and fill the skillet with water up to about an inch below the top of the jar. Then let the water gently simmer for an hour or so, topping it up as necessary. You can then remove the lavender, or leave it in to let the honey continue to infuse.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.