B. restaurant sits on the property of Oak Brook Hills Resort, which is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. This means we have been recognized for our environmental excellence, including wildlife and habitat management. How is this used within the restaurant? Although not used all the time or in every dish requiring honey, we get at least some of our honey from bees buzzing right here on the property.
Taking care of our bees helps our property and the surrounding environment. It takes a lot of skill provided by experts who know how to keep our hives thriving so they can return every year when the weather gets warm. While we use some of the honey these colonies produce, the main benefit is environmental.
What types of bees make honey?
Well this may seem like an easy answer, but it’s not. You’re initial thought is: honey bees. In fact, there are several species of insect which collect nectar to produce honey. These include bumblebees and some species of nectar-collecting wasps. Some species of ant, called “Honey pot” ants, also produce a sweet substance known as honeydew (which is very similar to honey), often eaten by local indigenous cultures, insects and animals. These other species of bee and wasp do not produce enough honey to harvest and use in cooking, which is why the Western honey bee is usually used for mass honey production.
Like most business producing and using fresh honey, we use honey bees which are eusocial bees in the scientific genus Apis. The type of bees which create large nests, or hives, harvest nectar from plants and produce the substance we know as honey.
How do bees make the honey?
Honey bees have a very strict social structure and there are certain bees who perform specific duties. The foragers go out and collect nectar from plants, storing it within their bodies. They bring this back to the nests where it is used by other worker bees to create an energy-boosting, sugary, substance used to feed the colony and stored to feed young bees. However, this substance can also be collected and made into the honey you find on any grocery store shelf.
Where do our bees go during the winter?
Basically, our bees go on vacation. We use a company called City Bee Savers who are experts in removing the beehives and then transporting them around the country and making sure the hives continue to thrive, even during cold weather.
Our bees were carefully removed from the property and transported across the country to California. First, they rested during the months of December and January at a yard especially for bees. After January, they transported the bees north where they were kept active pollinating an almond tree farm during the coldest months here in the Midwest. Once the weather turned warm in the Midwest, they removed the bees from this location. When March arrived, they transported the bee colonies to Kentucky, which was an environment conducive to them boosting numbers before coming back home. When it was determined the colony was ready, they were transported to a bee yard in West Chicago, IL, before finally coming back to the property at Oak Brook Hills Resort.
Why is it important for us to have bee hives?
Well, having live bees and hives on our property means we do have a way to collect some fresh honey we can use in dishes or even beverages. However, the biggest benefit is because protecting our beehives and bee colonies is good for the environment. It is well known honeybees and other insects who collect nectar are also pollinators. Pollination keeps plants alive and thriving. We are very proud to be part of that cycle.
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