Bee-lieve it or not, Chautauqua County had royalty visit on Thursday.
The Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association held their annual picnic yesterday and American Beekeeping Federation Honey Queen Alyssa Fine was present to help reinforce the importance of beekeeping and explain how honeybees affect our daily lives more than we may think.
"Bees are so important for us," said Fine. "Bees account for 30 percent of the direct insect pollination in this country. You have three meals every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Without honeybees, you can throw out one of those meals. Every third bite of food you take, statistically, is because of bees. New York is the third largest dairy-producing state in the country, so dairy farming would be drastically different without bees, because you need the bees to pollinate the clover and alfalfa that the cows eat.
Either through direct pollination or indirect pollination and pretty much everything we consume is affected by honeybee pollination."
Fine, who is originally from Monongahela, Pa., has already visited 10 states to speak about beekeeping during her 2012 tour of duty and she said she has many more states to go before she's done.
"So far, it's really been the opportunity of a lifetime to represent an industry I've been so involved with my whole life," said Fine. "We have about 150 hives in southwestern Pennsylvania, so it's an industry I want to represent and protect so we have a livelihood for our family in our future. ... I'm always working with beekeeping organizations such as the Chautauqua County Beekeeping Association and I enjoy representing the American Beekeeping Federation anytime I get the chance."
Along with being named 2012 Honey Queen by the ABF, Fine's list of accomplishments include speaking before the Mississippi House of Representatives, being a guest on Pittsburgh Live Today and being invited to visit the National Honey Board in Firestone, Colo.
"We're so excited to have Alyssa here for our annual picnic," said Teri Whitney, member of the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association. "It's not everyday that the national anything comes to Chautauqua, so to have the American Honey Queen here is just more than we could have asked for."
As impressive as Ms. Fine's resume is, however, the resume belonging to the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association is fairly impressive as well. According to the American Bee Journal, the first meeting of the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association was Jan. 29, 1870.
"People don't realize it, but our bee club is one of the oldest bee clubs in the state," said member Ben Whitney. "Our charter dates back to the 1800s and we were one of the first bee clubs in the nation, as well."
And although the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association currently 60 to 80 members, those members believe they are doing very important work in carrying on a tradition that many members can say go back three to five generations in their family trees.
"One of my favorite things is watching the expression on people's faces when they taste true honey with a flavor they can identify as opposed to honey in a supermarket that has been super-filtered and has a generic taste," said Ben. "With our honey, you can taste the individual flavor of the (plants that have been pollinated) whether it's from buckwheat, orange blossom, apple, white clover all those flavors come out very strongly if you separate your honey as the bees make it, which we do."
"It really gives us a family-centered hobby as well," said Teri. "Our kids are involved in it, our grandkids are involved with it and it really gives us a feeling of unity within our family."
As a way to thank Ms. Fine for her visit to Chautauqua County, the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association collectively presented her with a gift basket featuring unique items from the county.
"We are very, very happy and very proud to be able to host the American Honey Queen today," said Ben. "It was just a wonderful thing to have her come visit our little bee club."
According to Ben, the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association is always looking for new members and people who have never kept bees before but think it might be a worthwhile hobby are more than welcome to ask questions.
"People don't think about it, but bees make wonderful pets, as well," said Ben. "They're just as loyal as my dog and are much easier to take care of as well."
Sam Radicella, president of the Chautauqua County Beekeeper's Association, can be reached for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honeybee and Honey Facts, compliments of Alyssa Fine, 2012 American Honey Queen
Honeybees can survive just about anywhere. The New York City Beekeepers Association maintains hives on rooftops in the heart of the city.
The average hive contains between 10,000 and 80,000 honeybees. There are 49,000 hives of honeybees in New York alone.
The queen bee is the only fully developed female in the hive and has a lifespan of two years. She is capable of laying 1,000 to 3,000 eggs each day.
A worker bee visits 50 to 100 flowers of the same variety during each foraging flight.
As the worker travels from flower to flower, pollen granules are transferred, resulting in pollination. One-third of United States crops depend on insect pollination, of which honeybees account for nearly 80 percent.
New York crops pollinated by honeybees include: apples, cabbage, cherries, cucumbers, green peas, onions, peaches, snap beans, squash and tomatoes.
New York ranks third in United States dairy production, but without honeybees, there would be no milk. Honeybees pollinate clover and alfalfa the main food sources for dairy cattle.
The color and flavor of honey depends on the nectar source. There are more than 300 unique honeys in the United States, ranging in color from water white to deep amber, with many bold and exciting flavors in between. Varieties in the area can be found at www.honeylocator.com
Honeys produced in New York include: Alfalfa, Apple Blossom, Basswood, Blueberry, Buckwheat, Clover, Goldenrod, Raspberry and Wildflower.
Honey is naturally antibacterial and will never spoil. It is the perfect additive to many cosmetics and can also be used as an effective wound treatment.
The average worker produces only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime.
Honeybees gather nectar from over two million flowers to produce a single pound of honey.
The average person consumes 1.3 pounds of honey each year.
Each person can help the honeybee by planting pollinator friendly flowers, purchasing local honey, or by directly donating to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Honeybee at www.honeybeepreservation.org.