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Gold on the table

For two years now the Art Déco Restaurant at the Dr Irena Eris Polanica Zdrój SPA Hotel has been serving for breakfast honey produced in the nearby beehives. Hotel apiary is located in the quiet forest park and houses 35 hives that are home to about 3 million bees. Their caregiver and protector is PRZEMYSŁAW GRYZ, the SOUS CHEF at this restaurant.
Many factors affect the taste of the honey produced: the diversity of blossoming plants, weather and temperature, as well as the amount of smoke used during work.
Reportedly, beekeepers are losing their bees, and entire colonies are said to “collapse.” Why should we have enormous respect for the bees?
There is a reason why we say that if the last bee dies, we will all go extinct. Bees are very beneficial insects. They are responsible for pollinating plants, including vegetable and fruit crops. Without bees, the majority of plant varieties wouldn’t be able to bear fruit and produce seeds. They also provide many products that are beneficial for our health: honey, royal jelly, beeswax, pollen, and propolis.

What is the most challenging aspect of beekeeping?
For the bees, it’s different diseases, such as varroasis, which has a considerable impact in terms of reducing apiary productivity. Sick bees wouldn’t survive without the beekeeper. It’s the beekeeper who can administer medicines and make sure the bees can recover. They also play an important role in the wintering of bees, which is a difficult element of bee-farming. Healthy and prepared for wintering bees will make a good start of a colony when the spring comes.

Where does your passion for bees come from?
My passion for beekeeping started about seven years ago. I actually became a beekeeper by accident. I remember when my father brought home an entire swarm of bees and this is really how it all started. Our knowledge of beekeeping was very limited. We knew for sure that we had to build a beehive. I studied everything from the bottom up, and I’m still in this business because of my determination. Beekeeping is both my passion and my hobby. Being around bees relaxes me.

Do you speak to your bees? 
Of course, I talk to all my pupils. They’re like children to me. Every time I’m opening a hive or just passing one by, I must say a few words to them. I don’t know whether the bees recognize me, I got stung a couple of times. I think they live too short to get used to certain people, but there are many views on this topic.

For how long do bees work during the day and the year?
Bees are very hardworking, extremely persistent, and diligent. They work all the time, all year round. Once hatched, young bees are already given tasks. When they mature, they get new functions. In the beginning, they clean up the hive, later produce wax, feed larvae, and when the time comes, they leave to work outside the hive. Even the retired bees have a job. They look for places where nectar can be found and guide the worker bees with their dance. They have no time to rest, not even in winter, when all family members gather up to keep warm. They move their tiny wings to create heat and keep the queen in the middle of the swarm.

The apiary is located on the hotel ground. When is the first honey collected? Is it always the same?
The first harvest of honey in the season is an exciting moment and usually takes place at the end of May or at the beginning of June. The best indicator of whether the time is right for harvesting is when you obtain a honeycomb structure. The taste of honey is affected by many factors: the diversity of blossoming plants, weather and temperature, and the amount of smoke. Each year, the honey produced may taste differently.

Which form of honey tastes the best? What should we remember about not to make sure we don’t destroy the honey?
Besides great taste, honey has long been known for its therapeutic qualities. It has antimicrobial properties, but weshould remember that it can cause an allergic reaction. For me, honey straight from the comb is the best, but mead also has a unique taste. To avoid spoiling honey, it should not be boiled or heated to high temperatures. Honey should be stored in sealed containers, e.g. in jars, as it absorbs moisture and extraneous aromas. It is best to keep them at 5-25 degrees Celsius in a dark place. Remember that honey may crystallize, which means it turns from a liquid to semi-solid state. To bring the honey back to its liquid state heat it up to a temperature of around 40 degrees.

You’re an amazing chef – you achieved great successes in a number of industry competitions, for instance, you won the Polish Culinary Cup or Primerba Cup. What is your favorite dish in which you use honey?
Dessert made of fresh fruit, e.g. strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, served with natural yogurt and a crunchy buckwheat cookie, sprinkled with honey and flower pollen. I recommend visiting our hotel to get a chance to taste our honey in different dishes, and in its purest form at breakfast.
Did you know…

The average lifespan of worker bees during summer is around 38 days. However, in winter, they can live up to six months.
Drones, the male bees of the colony, develop from eggs that have not been previously fertilized. Therefore, a drone does not have a father. The main purpose of the drone bees is to fertilize the new queen. The average lifespan of a drone bee is three months. All drones are driven out of the hive before winter by the worker bees that gather pollen.
The queen bee can live up to six years. However, in the contemporary apiary practice, the queen bee is replaced every two years. Her only function is to lay up to 1,000 eggs per day. The eggs turn into larvae.
The queen bee embarks on a mating flight once in a lifetime. The queen mates with drones in the air. She can sense the drone coming close from a distance of 2 km. She collects the sperm to a special sac. The amount of sperm collected will be enough for the rest of her life. Bees share information on the location of pollen sources. They pass information by performing a group of movements, called the waggle dance talk.

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