La Vita delle Api Storie dei nostri Borghi

Always in the company of our 90-year-old hobbyist “Master Beekeeper” Roberto Maglie, son of the last operator and water transporter of the Regoledo cable car, we continue our journey to discover love for bees and honey.

In Italy there are many beekeepers and most of them are in Lombardy.

Mastro Roberto’s love for bees confirms Albert Einstein’s famous statement that said: “When the bee disappears, the man will not have more than four years to live.”.

The greatness of Mastro Roberto is that despite having dealt with honey since the age of 34, still today, at the age of 90 he continues to read and study books that talk about bees to be able to understand the many secrets that naturalists still have to find.
Oh yes, there are still many small unsolved mysteries about the life of the bee family.

In the previous article we saw how bees are born. Now let’s see in summary how their life is structured. We are talking about the Italian yellow bees “Apis millifera ligustica” and in particular of the bees of Mastro Roberto who in Abbadia Lariana in Perla raises them, cares for them and loves them.

I’ll tell you now how their life unfolds:
As soon as the bee is born, it immediately begins to work.
Their work accomplishes specific tasks for each day of their life.
The first two days her job is to clean up the cell where she was born to have the queen to deposit a new egg for reproduction.
From the third to the sixth day the bees provide assistance to the larvae feeding them with pollen and honey and from their sixth day of life also with the royal jelly (very energetic whitish substance).
From the tenth day their glands no longer produce royal jelly and they begin to make the first orientation flights outside but continue to work inside by taking nectar from foraging bees (those that collect nectar and pollen from flowers) and distribute it to the other bees. Also in this phase, the bees are also builders (they build and repair the cells) and are also scavengers (they clean the hive).
From the 18th to the 20th day of their short life they become sentinel bees to defend the hive from wasps and hornets, their worst enemies, but also from mice, moths (parasitic butterflies that consume their wax and can ruin the weakest hives ), by snakes and vipers. The green woodpecker, on the other hand, pierces the hives to feed on the high-protein larvae.
From the 21st day until their death (maximum 45 days) the bees become foragers. The foragers collect nectar and pollen up to 10 km away from their nest.

Each colony of bees then divides three times, this process is called swarming. In practice, the queen goes away with a group of workers and a new queen is elected from the abandoned group.

But how is honey made?
Honey is produced by bees as a secretion and regurgitation of sugary substances collected in nature. The bee, in its pharynx, contains an enzyme called invertase. This enzyme breaks down sucrose into glucose and fructose. Once in the hive, the bee regurgitates the honey, full of water, depositing it in small layers on the cell wall. The fan bees then dehydrate the honey until it is ripe (max 18% of water).

The artisanal process of honey harvesting is really interesting and is quite simple.

First, the boxes of honeycombs are removed from the hive. Mastro Roberto has 10 honeycombs for each box and has two or three boxes for each hive. When a box is full it adds a new one on top of the full one, to give the bees space and not to clog the honeycombs by building other cells between one and the other. If the honeycombs break, the bees repair them and manage to create a new one in two to three days.

Then you move away from the hive with the box full of honeycombs or even with only one honeycomb at a time.

The honeycomb is scraped off the surface wax and then placed in a blender which releases the honey from the honeycombs.
Under the mixer there is a first filter.

The honey filtered by the mixer is then poured into the ripener, first passing through two other filters with two increasingly fine sieves.
The ripener serves to make the honey settle on the bottom by decanting while the wax is stratified on the surface.
The ripening operation takes a minimum of three to four days.

Finally, a tap opens from the bottom of the ripener and the jars of honey are filled, ready for tasting.

Honey has remarkable therapeutic properties and we will see this in the next article.

So, enjoy, nourish and heal yourself with honey.

Video – l’Ape Maia

Un abbraccio/ a big Hug
Marcus Dardi

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