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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Sweet It Is At Walker Farms

Walker Farms

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is an apiary or a place where bee hives are kept. Bees are of the genus Apis which is where the word seems to come from.
Alan Walker (AW) was gracious enough to give me a private tour of his apiary, even though his wife was in the hospital having broken her back the week before. AW has been working with bees for over 50 years and has been running Walker Farms since 1970.

Walker Farms is quite the honey producer, making over 100,000 pounds of honey per year. I was told there was over 300 different kinds of honey produced in the U.S. depending on what types of plants there were in the region. Walker Farms produces 4 types of honey which are seasonal depending on the type of plant.

Orange blossom
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wild flower
saw palmetto
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and black mangrove.
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They also sell bricks of beeswax and beeswax candles which apparently burn cleaner than most other candles. The wax needs to be filtered because it contains pollen which will interfere with the candle wicks as they burn.

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The honey making business was very interesting. The colonies or hives are filled with frames, about 10/hive.

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The lattice that you see in the middle of the frame is made from beeswax. This supports the honeycomb
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As we approached the hives

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the largest stack of hives was estimated to contain 50-60,000 bees. Most bee colonies in North America have been africanized.  Through interbreeding with  africanized bees they are more aggressive than normal honey bees and harder to work with. If a beekeeper wants to start a non-africanized colony they would get their queen bee, the one that lays all the eggs from Hawaii. There are at present no africanized bees there due to the islands being very far out in the Pacific and strict regulations on any bee-related imports.

Bee populations have been markedly reduced, AW felt, by viruses and pesticides.

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AW brought his smoker and hive tool, two sine qua non of being a beekeeper. 


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No one really knows why, but the smoke tends to anesthetize the bees and make them easier to work with. The hive tool is used to pry and scrape the hives and frames. As he was prying open the hives
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he told me about this really cool natural wood preservation method using a mixture of beeswax and pine resin.
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You can see this on the edge of the wood. Wood treated in this fashion will last for over 30 years.

This particular frame was filled with honey and weighed about 10 pounds. Bees make honey by digesting the sugars in nectar from plants and concentrating it by fanning it with their wings.

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Once the combs are full of honey the bees cap them with beeswax. With 10 frames/hive and 10 pounds of honey a frame each cycle of a hive will produce 100 pounds of honey. Given multiple cycles and hives, well, you can do the math. It works out to be 3-400 pounds per hive/year.

When harvesting the honey 

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The frames are "uncapped" (beeswax taken off the honey comb) by the machine on the right. The honey is extracted from the "uncapped" combs through centrifugation by the machine on the left and pumped into holding tanks.
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Once it is ready to be bottled

it is strained through a cheesecloth-like filter to remove any particulate matter and bottled.

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Walker farms prices are quite reasonable which were called the "farm price".

I asked AW what the difference was between big agribusiness (AB) honey and his honey. He said that AB honey was pasteurized which totally changes it chemical composition and flavor. It also increased it's shelf live so it does not crystallize.

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It is also blended to have a consistent color, and corn syrup may even be added. Who would want that when they could have something so much better.

This was a very good tour, and very "sweet" of AW. I hope it has been as interesting and informative to you as it was for me.

Walker Farms
17131 Slater Rd.
North Fort Myers, FL 33917
(239)543-8071
www.walkerfarmshoney.com 


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