Valley honey producers benefit from wet spring

FRESNO, Calif.

In its lifetime a single bee produces a quarter of a teaspoon of honey. So hives have to work very hard to fill that jar of honey you have at home.

Keeping up with the demand for honey isn't easy. Frames from bee boxes must be separated and pulled. The bees wax has to scraped off before the honey can be processed one frame at a time.

Clovis beekeeper Bryan Beekman says it's been an above average year. Beekman said, "The season's pretty good. We had a lot of rainfall this year. In return, when you get a lot of rain the plants get more flowers on them."

Cold and rainy conditions in the spring made beekeepers nervous because the bees weren't leaving their boxes placed in citrus and almond orchards. But the weather warmed and those same boxes are now producing healthy amounts of honey.

Beekman explained, "The honey is then spun in honey extractors they call it, and it uses centrifugal force to fling the honey out of the comb."

The honey flows slowly into a sump tank before it is pumped into a dairy tank. It takes less than 30 seconds to fill a 55-gallon drum with liquid gold. On a good day Beekman's crews can fill 22 barrels.

Beekman sells some of his raw honey locally but the bulk of it is processed and sold under the Sue Bee label.

Beekman said, "All your fruit drinks, all your General Mills cereals to Heinz ketchup. You'd be surprised what honey's used in nowadays."

And nothing goes to waste. Bees wax is melted down and sold to pharmaceutical and candle companies.

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